Industrialized workforces across the world are aging and growing more age-diverse. It is estimated that by 2024, 38.2% of workers in the United States will be age 55 or older (Toossi et al., 2015). Similarly, in about half of the European Union (EU) countries more than 20% of the workforce will be older than 55 in 2035 (Aiyar, Ebeke, & Shao, 2016). At the same time, the overall labor force participation rate is declining. In the United States it is estimated that the labor force participation rate will be 61% by 2026 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Similarly, the EU workforce is expected to decline by 4.3 million people by 2020 (Eurostat, 2017), and it is expected to shrink further by 12% in 2030 and by 33% in 2060 compared with 2009 levels (European Commission, 2010). These low rates of workforce participation along with the aging workforce strain retirement systems and other social safety net programs. For example, while there were 3.8 people of working age for every dependent person over 65 in the EU in 2002, this number fell to 3.2 people in 2015. By 2020, there will be fewer than three people of working age for every dependent person over 65 in the EU (Eurostat, 2019). To combat this strain on retirement systems, many European governments are raising their official pension age, but labor market participation continues to decrease from age 50 onwards in Europe (Eurostat, 2017). In addition, with increased retirement ages, workplaces are growing more age-diverse, with younger and older people working together more frequently than in the past (Boehm, Kunze, & Bruch, 2014; Finkelstein & Truxillo, 2013).
To address the challenges associated with an aging workforce and lower workforce participation among older employees, it is critical to understand how to keep individuals working effectively and participating in the labor market across the lifespan. Researchers have called for studies to understand the attitudes, behavior, and wellbeing of workers across the lifespan (e.g., Hertel & Zacher, 2018; Kooij, Zacher, Wang, & Heckhausen, 2019; Kunze & Boehm, 2013; Truxillo, Cadiz, & Hammer, 2015; Zacher, Kooij, & Beier, 2018). Hence, organizations and researchers recently have focused their attention on understanding and managing age differences in the workplace and ensuring that younger and older workers work together effectively (Finkelstein et al., 2015).
This Special Issue focuses on mid-life and older adult workers and age-differences in the workplace. The goal is to highlight empirical work that offers insights into research on phenomena related to age at work; proposes and tests new theory; and/or integrates existing work to explain the role of age in employee attitudes, motivation, behavior, well-being, and retirement and how organizations and societies can enhance these outcomes for workers across the lifespan. Studies may use an array of methods including field methodological designs (e.g., longitudinal, multilevel, within-person, qualitative methods, interventions), meta-analyses, and experimental methods.