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Ageing workforce and productivity of firms in Belgium (AGEPROD)

Research project TA/00/31A (Research action TA)

Persons :

Description :

The Belgian population is ageing due to demographic changes. So does the workforce of firms active in Belgium. Between 1997 and 2004, the average age of workers rose by more than 2 years: from 36,21 to 38,47. Such a trend is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. And it will be reinforced by the willingness of public authorities to expand employment among 50+ individuals. Ageing and policies aimed at maintaining older individuals in employment raise crucial issues. One of them is the effect on the productivity performance of firms, and, by extension, of the whole economy.

The central aim of this project is to try to properly quantify the effect of the changing structure of the workforce -- particularly its tendency to grow older -- on the productivity and profitability of firms. Our intention is to tap into a unique employer-employee panel data set, and apply econometric techniques to produce robust evidence on the causal effect of ageing on productivity.

We are in possession of a panel of 12,000+ firms with more than 20 employees, largely documented in terms of sector, location, size, capital used, hours worked, wage levels, productivity and profits. These observations come from the Belfirst database. Via the so-called Carrefour datawarehouse, using firm identifiers, we were been able to inject information on age and gender of workers employed by these firms, and this for a period running from 1997 to 2005.

The microeconometric study of data combining information about firms and workers, focussing on the issue of age and productivity, would be a novelty for Belgium It would also be a way to explore and fully exploit the potential of these data.. But the interest of the project goes well beyond the Belgian borders. Ageing workforces is a phenomenon affecting most OECD countries, possibly also China. And its analysis via micro and firm-based data hasn't been done extensively so far.

In terms of research topics, it is worth stressing that our data also allow us to examine how workforce composition affects productivity. Age heterogeneity can be treated as a investigation issue in its own right (how do various mixes of young, middle-aged and older workers affect productivity?). Other topics include the gender dimension (does ageing affect women and men's productivity differently?), the sectoral aspect (are banks and construction firms equally affected by ageing?), or the geographical aspect (are all provinces responding in the same way?).

Documentation :

Age des travailleurs et productivité des firmes en Belgique : synthèse    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2011 (SP2413)
[To download

Vergrijzende werknemers en productiviteit van ondernemingen in België: synthese    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2011 (SP2414)
[To download

Ageing workforce and productivity of firms in Belgium : summary    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2011 (SP2415)
[To download

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