The context: specificity of labour markets situation of older workers in CEE

Health and education remain core elements of human capital formation. When we look at the older workforce in the CEE region, we should bear in mind that those elements of human capital were to a great extent shaped by specific economic and societal factors related to a state-socialism economy. Hence, it is important to look at the determinants of labour utilisation of this group through a historically oriented lens. Only then can we understand the existing differences between CEE countries and wealthier Western Europe in such issues as mortality or life expectancy.

The post-communist transformation brought about a substantial improvement to the health of the population in the CEE, which manifested itself, for instance, by a dramatic decline of deaths caused by ischaemic heart disease (Ginter & Simko, 2012). Among all transition countries, Poland and the Czech Republic might be regarded as champions of such improvements (Golinowska, 2009, p. 229), even though the life expectancy, especially for males in those two countries, is still lower than in the EU-15. Measures of healthy life years (i.e. the number of remaining years that a person of specific age is expected to live without any severe or moderate health problems) for Polish and Czech women are, as is documented by Eurostat, good, and they are very close to the EU average (Eurostat database), which theoretically can facilitate prolonging careers in the labour market of older women. The same indicators for Polish and Czech men are well below EU's average. From the perspective of labour utilisation, it is important to look at general health indicators of different segments of the labour market. In this vein, we could take the example of the huge gaps in life expectancy between men with the highest and the lowest educational levels: those gaps2 point to highly diversified labour market chances for older people, especially men, in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Prevailing educational attainment among the current older workforce in CEE is to a very large degree the result of educational systems that were in place during state socialism. Data presented in a comprehensive study (Kogan. Gebel, & Noelke, 2008) documented an exceptionally small share, also given the EU-15 average, of older people in the Czech Republic who had only lower-secondary education or less.3 A similar pattern was also detected by the authors in the share of older workers with upper-secondary or post-secondary no-tertiary education (ISCED 3^1): the percentage for the Czech population was two times higher than the EU-15 average. In general, public authorities throughout the period of state socialism in CEE were greatly aimed at producing lower-grade specialities i.e., a worker who can be employed in industrial sectors as well as in state bureaucracy (Michael, Kogan, & Gebel, 2012). The role of tertiary education remained limited, and it was additionally discouraged by low differences in wages between tertiary-educated people and skilled manual workers or technicians (Kogan et al., 2008).

From a labour demand side, the post-communist transformation brought about very dramatic reconfigurations of the work environment, including the privatisation or liquidation of many state companies. At the same time, countries from the CEE region experienced a rapid tertiarisation that could be regarded as a 'structural correction of over-industrialised economies’ as well as - especially in Visegrad countries - inflow of FDI investments that contributed to the reindustrialisation of the economies (Lux, 2018). We could argue that many new investments that counterbalanced a negative external shock to the labour market were much more favourable to younger workers, as the cost of (re)training these workers was lower than for older workers. Furthermore, from a territorial perspective, those new investments were unevenly distributed, i.e. some regions of countries were underinvested; the urban-rural divide was also a serious problem in this respect (Domanski, 2003).

To sum up, the specificity of the labour market situation of older workers in CEE stems from a combination of improvements of general quality of life in the last years and hardships and challenges that the elderly faced before and during the transformation.

Labour market utilisation of older workers in the Czech Republic and Poland


The empirical analysis is based on a broad range of data. Apart from the data derived from comparable databases established by OECD and Eurostat, we also looked at the data collected by national entities such as the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in the Czech Republic and the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) in Poland. We employed these data to detect and compare trends over the study period. A cautionary note should be made here: the pension system tends to be ‘slow-moving objects’, and legal amendments do not always translate into fast policy changes, not to mention changes that could be observed at the individual level.

In order to complement the analysis and to delve into the situation of older workers, we also used the wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) from 2017. This dataset provides detailed information on many aspects of life of the elderly for a probabilistic sample of older people in many European countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland. We used the SHARE data for a merely descriptive purpose by employing a simple binary variable logistic regression model.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >