Historically low birth rates and increasing life expectancy mean that Europe’s working population is ageing fast. In 2012 the continent reached an inevitable demographic tipping point. The percentage of the population at working age fell for the first time in 40 years. It is now forecast to fall every year until 2060.

This inescapable trend will have profound implications for governments, citizens and companies across Europe. The fact that Europe has seen its demographic dividend expire in a time of economic frailty will only compound the challenge.

Retirement as we think of it today could soon become a thing of the past. State pension and health provision will come under intense stress. Companies will have to undergo a step change in their attitudes to older employees and, more broadly, to working practices.

To explore some of the issues that senior executives will have to address as they seek to adapt their organisations to this new world, The Economist Intelligence Unit, on behalf of Towers Watson, surveyed 480 senior executives at companies across Europe. Almost three-quarters (71%) of them expect the proportion of their employees aged over 60 to increase by 2020, including 22% who expect it to increase significantly.

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