Population Research and Policy Review 22: 21–40, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Managing an aging workforce and a tight labor market: views
held by Dutch employers
, KÈNE HENKENS
, JOOP SCHIPPERS
Department of Labor Economics and the Economics of Equal Opportunity, Utrecht
University, the Netherlands
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demograrphic Institute (NIDI), The Hague, the Netherlands
Despite the strong growth in employment of the past years, the Dutch labor
market faces a number of persistent problems. One such problem is the large
number of people on disability beneﬁts. Another problem is the low labor
force participation of women, not so much in terms of people, but in terms of
hours worked (Henkens et al. 2002). And, despite an increase since the mid-
1990s, the labor force participation of people over 50 is also much lower than
the European average (OECD 1996). These low labor force participation rates
should be seen against the backdrop of a strong increase in labor demand in
recent years. In many sectors of the Dutch economy, this has led to tightness
in the labor market (CPB 2000). Given that the population of the Netherlands
is aging, new imbalances are looming on the horizon. Structural changes need
to be implemented to pay for the growing number of pensioners. However,
before the baby boom cohorts reach the mandatory retirement age of 65, the
labor force, too, is aging (Ekamper 1997).
The sizeable cohorts of baby boomers have already reached middle age.
This means that they are approaching the age at which many of today’s work-
ers are leaving the labor force. Until recently, most organizations do not seem
to be too concerned about the prospect of the loss of this large source of labor.
Government and the so-called social partners (employers’ organizations and
trade unions) seem to be more aware of the potential problems that lie ahead.
A much-discussed issue is the ﬁnancing of various public services, in par-
ticular in health care and social security. These debates focus on the ratio
between the economically active and the non-active population. The growing
labor shortages, which so far appear to be linked primarily to the economic
cycle, point to the fact that these shortages may become more structural as