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Senior citizens put themselves back in job market, employers should focus on this growing social need

On March 2017, a job fair conducted by a computer education company in Bengaluru saw almost 6,000 senior citizens registering their names for jobs. Though Nightingales Empowerment Foundation (NEF), which offers training in computer and accounting software Tally to those above 60, has always seen a large number of senior citizens registering during its annual job fairs, the numbers this year surprised the organisation especially because the number of employers at the job fair was only 60.

The gap highlights a huge chasm between demand and supply when it comes to post-retirement jobs for senior citizens in India. Elderly in India, a 2016 survey by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation shows that 46 percent of elderly men and 11 percent of elderly women work in urban India. There is no data available from the employers' side but as the numbers at the NEF job fair show, it’s worth consideration.

 Senior citizens put themselves back in job market, employers should focus on this growing social need

Senior citizens register their names at a job fair organised for them by Nightingales Empowerment Foundation. NEF and Janalakshmi Financial Services

The need for a second inning

Senior citizens are looking at second careers for many reasons, financial security is one of the most important ones. A July 2016 Retirement Countdown report by HSBC showed that 68 percent of the Indian retirees were borrowing or financially supporting others, indicating the need for continued income. “Many of them are living on their own and even those in joint families do not want to be dependent on their children to avoid conflict,” says Komal Singh, project manager, NEF.

Add to that increased life expectancy due to improved medical facilities, and the official retirement age of 60 no longer seems like a time to hang up the boots. "Many people enter retirement in good health and still have a lot of energy. They look for post-retirement options to stay social, active and supplement their retirement income," says Kamlesh Nuthi, co-founder of Not Retired, an online job portal for retirees.

Shridhar BR, 62, retired in 2014. A former bank manager, today, Shridhar works six days a week as part of his second innings, clocking in five hours every day and commuting 15 kilometres in a scooter to work. "I'm still active and working is good for my overall health. Of course, the money helps as everything is getting expensive."

Does a job market exist for seniors?
Are employers opening up to address this untapped social need? Not really, according to organisations matchmaking senior citizens with employers. "The actual recruitment in this segment is small and would amount to 5 to 10 percent of the overall job market size," says Nuthi, who feels that currently most of the matchmaking in full-time, part-time or advisory roles are happening based on natural contacts that the employers have with the retirees.

"The job market for senior citizens does not formally exist. Organisations are governed by policies which define a retirement age or there are stereotypes linked to age and productivity," says Puja Kohli, whose HR initiative Unfold Consulting curates second career options for retirees.

Kiran Kumar BC of Janalakshmi Financial Services (JFS), one of India’s largest microfinance firms, thinks that only about "20 percent employers are open to hiring retirees". JFS recently recruited five retirees from a law enforcement background for some of their branches in Bengaluru and wishes to hire more across India if the feedback on their work continues to remain positive. He feels that the strong domain experience and people skills honed over years stand in favour of senior citizens who wish to work.

Senior citizens register their names at a job fair organised for them by Nightingales Empowerment Foundation. NEF and Janalakshmi Financial Services

Senior citizens register their names at a job fair organised for them by Nightingales Empowerment Foundation. NEF and Janalakshmi Financial Services

Bhanu Kiran, proprietor, B2C Advertising, Hyderabad is recruiting senior citizens in administration roles. Retirees are an asset for small companies like his as they "do not expect higher packages" and are "responsible and trustworthy".

NEF has 350 employers registered with them at present. Most employers seem to be small to mid- size companies with openings for retirees in administrative and supervisory roles. This year, they have been able to place 1,600 senior applicants, a number that is somewhat hopeful according to Singh.

Salaries for senior citizens tend to average between Rs 10,000 to Rs. 20,000, for example, the pay scale at JFS is in the range of Rs 23,000 to Rs 25,000 and includes food, mobile and travel costs.
Yet, despite the small number of employers opening up to change, there has been no formal attempt across industries to address what is now a growing need. "This is an emerging consciousness for India and there are no formal needs being expressed in large numbers to hire retirees or seniors," Kohli mentions.

Growing challenges
This is despite the fact that 20 percent of India’s population would be above 60 by 2050, according to a report by HelpAge India. Reports also say that 80,000 public sector employees are expected to retire by 2017.

Very often, employers cite reasons that range from lack of technological skills to probable health conditions and employee dynamics as their inability to hire retirees. And while seniors could be an asset to a company, on the flip side, employers complain of attitude issues on the seniors’ part and an unwillingness to adapt to change. "Most employers feel their work culture is very youth oriented and elders won't fit in. They also feel that with possible health issues, elders aren’t reliable," says Singh.

"Despite the fact that salary packages are lower and employers do not need to provide a provident fund to retirees, it has been very hard for us to convince them," he adds.

Both Nuthi and Kohli see the need for a mindset change on both sides. "Employers should value the strong domain experience retirees bring with them," he points out. Kohli, who has organised role-based training and coaching in career transition for seniors, suggests that seniors need to extend themselves to diverse opportunities beyond their comfort zone and invest in their own development to keep pace with change.

While the demand and supply gap is waiting to be bridged, organisations working in the second career space are trying to provide training in computers, soft skills and resumé building while trying for placements in opportunities open to age. Most are looking at the 55 to 70 age group.

Manjunath N, 58, director, marketing and communications with Association of People with Disability, transitioned from the pharmaceutical sector into the social sector for his second career. He believes employers could set up second innings counselling and orientation centres for those interested and create awareness in their respective industry sectors to sensitise people to the idea of a second inning. “This also adds value to bring new work practices and efficiency at a workplace,” he signs off.

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Updated Date: Jun 12, 2017 22:08:37 IST