Author: Daniela Alvarán Corzo
Today, Dutch older workers’ employment rates are above the European Union’s average. Nevertheless, elder populations continue to face significant barriers when attempting to participate in the labor market (Conen 2013). Employers often hesitate when hiring the elderly as they believe there to be considerable labor costs linked to elder employees. A higher chance of health impairments for example could lead to considerable labor costs (Conen 2013). Another evident disadvantage that the elderly face in today’s highly competitive labor market is a lack of adaptation to new age technologies. As new technologies are making traditional mechanisms rare or even extinct, the elderly increasingly find themselves shut out of the labor market (de Kok and Span 2014).
The Value of Long Working Lives
The employment of the elderly should not be underestimated however. First, employment has the potential to alleviate material poverty amongst seniors by providing them with a source of income (Singh and Misra 2009). Its positive side effects even go a step further: Considering that many retired seniors experience loneliness and depression as a consequence of no longer being able to participate in society and in the labor market as actively as they may have before, employment can also improve their quality of life. Not only may it provide a sense of purpose in everyday life, it furthermore grants seniors access to a broad network of people and personal connections (Singh and Misra 2009).
The Special Skills of Older Entrepreneurs
Given that the labor market is reluctant to hire elder people, it is imperative to focus on the role of entrepreneurship as a road towards employment. An entrepreneur is an individual who is self-employed and who has the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business regardless of risk-aversion (Keister 2005).
According to a study conducted by the Scientific Analysis of Entrepreneurship in The Netherlands, the choice to become an entrepreneur is strongly correlated with age (de Kok and Span 2014). Nonetheless, contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are not always young – in fact, the benefits that come with age make the elderly especially good entrepreneurs. Age is a virtue as it entails a larger quantity of tacit knowledge and human capital accumulated from a lifelong learning process. For example, research has proven that success is not only contingent upon hard work and talent, it also depends on who you know (St. Pierre 2017). The longer a professional is active in their industry, the more contacts they develop. Here then, having spent a longer time in the labor market already is an indispensable advantage for an entrepreneur (St. Pierre 2017).
There is more that older entrepreneurs can bring to the table however. It is undeniable that the older you become, the longer your life and industry experience is as well. Practical know-how is priceless as it comes with a true education of the dangers that may lurk and mistakes to avoid – something that younger entrepreneurs are often still lacking (St. Pierre 2017). Furthermore, elder entrepreneurs are often more financially secure than younger ones. This allows them to meet unexpected costs head-on and create a much more stable basis for their bustling business (St. Pierre 2017). Due to this unique combination of skills and resources, research has found that older individuals tend to be successful entrepreneurs (de Kok and Span 2014).
The Bottom Line
In sum, there is a growing population of healthy elderly with skills, financial resources and time that could contribute to economic activity by extending their working lives. Given the unfavorable condition of the labor market towards older people, self-employment may be of interest for the rising population of seniors who wish to remain active in the labor force. According to the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, there is an increasing number of individuals who are re-entering the labor force after retirement (Conen 2013). Nonetheless, there still needs to be efforts directed to making entrepreneurship a viable option for individuals who have reached the retirement age. A possible solution to this problem could be training programs. These workshops can provide prospective elderly entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge needed to validate their ideas, thus, encouraging this important and neglected population to create their own post-retirement jobs.
Conen, W. S. (2013). Older workers: The view of Dutch employers in a European perspective. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
de Kok, J. and T. Span (2014). “Ageing and entrepreneurship across Dutch regions.” EIM Business and Policy Research.
Keister, L. (2005). Entrepreneurship. Research in the Sociology of Work; v. 15. Amsterdam; Oxford: Elsevier JAI.
Singh, A., and N. Misra (2009). “Loneliness, Depression and Sociability in Old Age.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal 18(1): 51-55.
St. Pierre, R. (2017). “How Older Entrepreneurs Can Turn Age to Their Advantage.” Entrepreneur Europe. At https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/294799.