“We have to give people a chance in their 60s and early 70s to continue to work,” he said. “We have to have different opportunities for them to expand their talents and to make the best use of their talents.” As populations age in places like Europe and Japan — a country that boasts the highest percentage of elderly in the world — society turns top heavy, with young workers supporting the masses of retirees. Of course, economists have been warning of this for decades. Now Bürkner, who is 58, says it’s time for companies to take it upon themselves to craft a solution — and to do for their own self interest.
In a time when most companies can barely bring themselves to even open a position, it’s hard to see why they should shoulder this extra requirement. Bürkner says it’s a matter of what BCG calls “demographic risk management” – looking at your current employment picture and mapping out where the chasms are going to open up in a few years. He points to the skills that go out the window when workers leave or are fired. And he argues that some aging workers leave with knowledge and training that will never be replaced – because schools aren’t preparing students for the kind of jobs that are being cut. Like any kind of risk management, the key is gaming out how certain decisions could bring unintended consequences.
Of course, part of the problem will be changing the perception of retirement. Bürkner thinks it’s time for a global rebranding of the concept: “You can see this in a negative way: ‘I have to work and slug away for the rest of your life.’ Or you can say ‘I’m still productive and can continue to contribute.'” The solution is to quit making retirement seem like a brass ring worth grasping at: “Not working is not a merit in itself,” he says.