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Experience is a strength – let’s get more mutual benefit from it

Signs point to a working life that will last longer. But how do we create a labour market that makes better sense for the individual throughout their working life? And how do we get better at seeing experience as a strength – and at utilising the resources of experienced employees for the benefit of businesses and our society?

For a long time, it has been clear from both employers and the political arena that more of us are needed – and for a longer time. This is because we do not have enough labour force and are living to be older.

But while demographics may point in a very clear direction, for some reason, experience and age do not always seem to be an advantage for individuals in the labour market. This is a paradox that we need to solve.

It sets a fundamental requirement: That we create a working life that is more flexible and sustainable in the long run, where we – and the employers – open our eyes to what employees can contribute. Even on the other side of 50. And also in a reality where continuing skills development is an integral part of being an employee in the financial sector.

This is of course an effort that has to do with making sure that age discrimination does not take place over the course of employment, which should of course be an absolute given. But it is also about the entire culture around experience and the different phases of our career and working life: That we focus on the value of experience, seek out new models for flexible employment relationships and generally create better opportunities for a working life that makes sense in the long run, including during the last part of the career, where working life may also look different in terms of responsibilities, duties, working hours and salary. We need to be open to looking at these parameters with common sense.

There is a need for a broad change of perspective: An employer may see a more long-term potential in a 30-year-old than in a 60-year-old, but why really? The trend is that we are spending increasingly shorter time in the same job – it is currently just over seven years across the labour market – and at the same time, Danes are changing jobs like never before. This is also why it makes no sense that 50+ is over-represented in unemployment statistics and people have a harder time re-entering the labour market.

The combination of experience and a desire to learn is a huge resource that we need to get better at making mutual use of. But this requires that companies have the courage to employ people who have been around for half a century. It requires that it be attractive to stay in the labour market in a late career in a way that makes sense for the individual. It requires a new focus on the enormous resources that experienced employees possess. It requires dispelling myths and prejudices about experienced employees. It requires that we take up the debate on how to ensure a working life that we can sustain over a longer period of time. And it requires that we increase flexibility both in terms of careers and retirement.

In short, we need to create a labour market where we are much better at giving employees at all stages of working life the opportunity to make a difference.