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World - Retailers will have to hire more older workers to cope with labour shortages

21 September 2011

Over 40 government, employers' and workers' delegates from more than 25 countries meeting at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), will discuss the impact of ageing societies on labour markets in the retail commerce sector on 21-22 September 2011.

The ILO Global Dialogue Forum on the Needs of Older Workers in relation to Changing Work Processes and the Working Environment in Retail Commerce will examine ways in which work processes and the working environment in the labour-intensive retail commerce sector can be adapted to facilitate labour market participation of older workers in the sector.

According to the report Adapting work processes and working environments in retail commerce to older workers' needs, the share of the youth population aged 30 and under is declining as that of those aged 50 and over increases, particularly in developed economies. As competition in the labour market increases, the retail commerce sector may increasingly need to draw its workers from the expanding population segment of the older age group.

The report says that these concerns are especially critical for a sector known for its combination of high labour-intensity and above-average labour turnover. The retail commerce sector therefore needs to review its employment practices, work processes and working environment in order to improve its ability to attract and retain more 50+ year olds, especially in sales and customer service roles.

To cope with the anticipated labour shortages in the industry, the report discusses good practices that already exist in both public and private sector organisations from which the industry could draw, covering such areas as training, development and promotion, flexible working practices and ergonomics and job design.

The report also says that social dialogue among governments, employers and trade unions in the sector could greatly facilitate the adoption of effective measures to enhance the sector's ability to attract and retain workers of all ages in a highly competitive labour market.

According to the report, the commerce sector is frequently the largest, or one of the largest, sectors in the national economy. In 2005, the sector provided jobs for more than 30 million workers in the 27 member states of the European Union.

The EU27 includes Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), the Czech Republic (CZ), Denmark (DK), Germany (DE), Estonia (EE), Ireland (IE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), Malta (MT), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Romania (RO), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE) and the United Kingdom (UK).

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