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Ageing and employability. Evidence from Belgian firm-level data


  • V. Vandenberghe


  • F. Waltenberg


  • M. Rigo



The Belgian population is ageing due to demographic changes, so does the workforce of firms active in the country. Such a trend is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. And it will be reinforced by the willingness of public authorities to expand employment among individuals aged 50 or more. But are older workers employable? The answer depends to a large extent on the gap between older workers’ productivity and their cost to employers. To address this question we use a production function that is modified to reflect the heterogeneity of labour with workers of different age potentially diverging in terms of marginal products. Using unique firm-level panel data we produce robust evidence on the causal effect of ageing on productivity (value added) and labour costs. We take advantage of the panel structure of data and resort to first-differences to deal with a potential time-invariant heterogeneity bias. Moreover, inspired by recent developments in the production function estimation literature, we also address the risk of simultaneity bias (endogeneity of firm’s age-mix choices in the short run) using (1) the structural approach suggested by Ackerberg et al. Structural identification of production functions. Department of Economics, UCLA, ( 2006 ), (2) alongside more traditional system-GMM methods (Blundell and Bond in J Econom 87:115–143, 1998 ) where lagged values of labour inputs are used as instruments. Our results indicate a negative impact of larger shares of older workers on productivity that is not compensated by lower labour costs, resulting in a lower productivity-labour costs gap. An increment of 10 %-points of their share causes a 1.3–2.8 % contraction of this gap. We conduct several robustness checks that largely confirm this result. This is not good news for older individuals’ employability and calls for interventions in the Belgian private economy aimed at combating the decline of productivity with age and/or better adapting labour costs to age-productivity profiles. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Suggested Citation

  • V. Vandenberghe & F. Waltenberg & M. Rigo, 2013. "Ageing and employability. Evidence from Belgian firm-level data," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 111-136, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jproda:v:40:y:2013:i:1:p:111-136
    DOI: 10.1007/s11123-012-0297-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Françoise Delmez & Vincent Vandenberghe, 2017. "Working long hours: less productive but less costly? Firm-level evidence from Belgium," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2017022, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    4. Muriel Dejemeppe & Catherine Smith & Bruno der Linden, 2015. "Did the Intergenerational Solidarity Pact increase the employment rate of older workers in Belgium? A macro-econometric evaluation," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-23, December.
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    6. Andrea ALBANESE & Bart COCKX, 2015. "Permanent Wage Cost Subsidies for Older Workers. An Effective Tool for Increasing Working Time and Postponing Early Retirement?," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2015006, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
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    14. V. Vandenberghe, 2017. "The productivity challenge. What to expect from better-quality labour and capital inputs?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(40), pages 4013-4025, August.
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    18. Mahlberg, Bernhard & Freund, Inga & Crespo Cuaresma, Jesús & Prskawetz, Alexia, 2013. "The age-productivity pattern: Do location and sector affiliation matter?," ECON WPS - Vienna University of Technology Working Papers in Economic Theory and Policy 01/2013, Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Mathematical Methods in Economics, Research Group Economics (ECON).
    19. Sotiris Blanas, 2017. "Offshoring and the Age-Skill Composition of Labour Demand," Working Papers 209919378, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
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    22. Y. Saks, 2014. "Employees: too expensive at 50? The age component in wage-setting," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue i, pages 61-74, June.
    23. Elena Grinza, 2016. "Replacing Workers: Is It a Boon or a Bane for Firm Productivity?," Working papers 034, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.

    More about this item


    Ageing; Old labour productivity and employability; Panel data analysis; J24; C33; D24;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity


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