Ireland's ageing workforce

Ireland's ageing workforce

ESRI Report – Twice as many workers aged 55 or over compared to 1998

A new report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI),commissioned by the Health and Safety Authority, has found that Ireland’s workforce is getting older. In 1998, one in 10 workers was aged 55 or over; by last year that figure had doubled to almost 20 per cent. These figures are forecasted to rise further.

Key findings:

  • The self-employed are more likely to work for longer
  • Employees in public administration and “other administrative” sectors are most likely to work for longer.
  • Workers with a poor work/life balance or in more physically demanding roles are less confident of working beyond the age of 60.
  • Ireland

Reasons people left the workforce between the ages of 55 and 59:

  • Almost one in five left the workforce early due to illness and disability
  • Around one in five left early because of job loss
  • Seven per cent left for reasons of family care
  • Just over 50 per cent cited “retirement” or “early retirement”

The report found that there is no gender gap with both men and women working at an older age. The report also found that professionals tend to leave the workforce earlier most likely due to higher pensions and greater financial security. Women are five times more likely than men to leave the workforce early for care reaons.

Active ageing

The ESRI study comes as the European Union’s 2020 strategy looks to encourage active ageing, including increased work participation, both for productivity but also for personal wellbeing and “intergenerational solidarity”.

The report’s authors also note that there is also strong pressure to increase employment among older people to help improve the sustainability of the welfare system across the bloc.

Older workers and safety

Older workers are less likely to experience a workplace injury than younger workers, but more likely to experience a workplace fatality. Workers aged 55 to 64 are almost two times more likely to experience a fatality than workers under 55. Workers over 65 are three and a half times more likely to experience a fatality than workers under 55. However, the absolute risk of death remains very small. 

Speaking positively about the findings, Minister Pat Breen TD said “An ageing workforce isn’t a burden, it’s an opportunity. Experience is a critical asset right now, and one that older workers have accumulated over the course of their careers. Businesses are going to struggle if they don’t embrace older workers and make better efforts to retain and retrain them. This report offers valuable insights to assist policy developments that will support all business sectors in fully utilising an ageing workforce. Increasing the participation of older workers in the labour market is a key ambition of the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland initiative and is essential for continued economic growth while also having a positive impact on workers themselves and on the economic and lifestyle choices available to them.” Source: and