In Germany, persons between 55 and 64 years of age have a lower labour participation in comparison to younger persons. The actual age at which persons start drawing pensions is well below the regular retirement age. Next to the numerous possibilities of early retirement, the rapid technological progress of the last years is said to be a possible reason for this situation. The hypothesis suggests that for older workers it is difficult to conform to the requirements at the workplace having changed through the adoption of information and communication technologies.

The project ICT usage and the age structure of employees analysed the hypothesis of an age-biased technological change. The results in the first part of the analysis show that older employees have a smaller probability of using a computer at the workplace than younger employees. The regression results reveal in particular that the minor computer use cannot be explained by differences between the group of the 55 to 65 year olds and the group of younger persons concerning apprenticeships, jobs and the sectoral affiliation of the company. Even when controlling for these individual and firm-level characteristics, the probability to work with a computer is about ten percent smaller for older employees than for younger ones. Firm-level analyses support these results and show that there are minor proportions of older employees to be found in ICT-intensive firms. The computer use, however, does not seem to be the decisive factor for an early withdrawal from full-time employment.

In a further step, the causes for the minor computer use of older employees were analysed. The results indicate that individual characteristics such as learning aptitude or the topicality of the present knowledge are not decisive factors for older persons to work or not to work with computer technologies. In fact, the minor computer use seems to be a side effect of the longer entitlement period of unemployment benefits and the possibilities of early retirement for older employees which have been established by the legislator in the past three decades. These regulations have ceteris paribus reduced the expected duration of employment of older persons and consequently the incentive to invest in human capital.

All in all, the project analyses allow important insights into the various links between working life, the creation of human capital and technology use. The results indicate in particular that these coherences should not stay unconsidered in the conception of political measures aiming towards an increase in working life - as they are currently discussed in Germany.

Selected Publications

Articles in Refereed Journals

Schleife, Katrin (2006), Computer Use and Employment Status of Older Workers - An Analysis Based on Individual Data, LABOUR: Review of Labour Economics and Industrial Relations 20 (2), 325-348.