Retired people back in business

Newsroom 15/09/2008 | 16:02

Data from the National Institute of Statistics show that in the second quarter of 2008 there were 5,700,769 retired people in Romania, with an average pension of RON 547. Of these, 5,684,885 benefit from social insurance, 2,214 are social aid beneficiaries and 13,670 are on pensions as war disabled, veterans and widows.
This is a more than generous number and a pool from which companies can fish for potential employees, especially if the crisis on the labor market becomes more acute.
“Maybe at the moment Romanian companies are not exploiting this opportunity to its utmost, but in the future it is likely that the number of active pensioners will grow in the context of an increasingly acute crisis on the labor force market,” says Sorina Donisa, CFO of the APT Group. “On the other hand, pushing back the retirement age could make this trend stagnate if the standard of living and health system does not stimulate in time a growth in life expectancy nationally,” she added.
Donisa tells Business Review that “it is very important to know whether we refer to all categories of retired people or just to those who retired on age grounds since in Romania there are many who retired for medical reasons but who in fact work in various domains. Overall, around 10 percent of pensioners are still active and are employed either with a work contract or through civil agreement. “Another category of pensioner, especially retired women, do certain activities for individuals, for example housework and baby sitting. There are various domains where they can work depending on their skills and level of preparation. As an example, retired people with higher or medium education have activities in consultancy, accounting, sales, insurance and education – both by collaborating with universities and individually by teaching private lessons. The other categories of retired people who are still active work in fields such as protection, cleaning and administrative, baby sitting, agriculture, local deliveries and trade, says Donisa.
“One example would be the protection and security domain where there are very many retirees from the army and police. Since their retirement age limit starts at 40 years old, after they retire, many open their own security companies or take up a job in one such,” says Gina Dobric, general manager at Human Capital Solutions. To this category, she adds doctors, teachers and those in the liberal professions – lawyers, accountants and architects.
The labor force shortage can be felt in almost all business domains, but, according to statistics, the most affected industries at the level of the entire country are construction, tourism and the textile industry, says Donisa.
To these, Dobric adds that there is a high demand for personnel in IT, financial, engineering, pharma, foreign languages, architecture and also construction, medicine and education. However, “the fields with the worst labor shortage do not necessarily coincide with the fields in which the majority of pensioners are employed,” she says.
But is it profitable for a company to employ retired people? Many firms recruit pensioners for positions from which they retired and a possible reason for why they choose to do so is because they agree to be paid unofficially. “Some companies hire them because, since they have their pensions, they also ask for a lower salary than a regular employee and, moreover, agree to be paid off the books,” says Dobric, adding that in parts of the country where most young people of working age have gone abroad, retired people serve as an option to cover personnel needs.
“They are currently a profitable labor force for certain positions in which young people would not agree to work either for image reasons or because they ask for a higher salary than a retired person,” says Donisa. They are willing to accept a lower payment because their pension still provides them with a source of income. On top of this, they are generally rejected at interviews in favor of younger people, although many of them have the experience and willingness to remain active.
“I cannot generalize but when they stay working for the same employer, they fill the position they did before retirement or a position with fewer responsibilities most of the times, says Dobric.

Generally, they are not employed in middle and top management but there are cases in which after retirement they become consultants for those who take up these positions after their departure due to their experience in the field, she says.
Generally, active pensioners can be found in a large range of jobs from unskilled workers to positions that ask for a certain degree of specialization and even in management.
But despite the obvious benefits, Donisa says the number of local companies that value the experience a retired person brings to the table is rather low.
Moreover an important factor in the decision to recruit a retiree is the domain of activity. Although there are several fields which are more “amenable” to hiring the active elderly, there had recently been no campaigns in the past to create good auspices for their employment.
However, McDonald's has started implementing a coherent strategy for attracting elderly employees.
Cristian Savu, communication director at McDonald's Romania, tells Business Review that the fast food firm is the first company that has started running such a campaign at a national level. “We are open to these types of collaborations, this being a situation which is quite normal in many European countries and especially in the United States,” he says.
Apart from information on employment opportunities that they can find in any McDonald's branch nationwide, retired people have also received leaflets with information about this when they collected their pensions, this being a “direct mailing pilot project,” as Savu labels it. It has been running for about a month, so far in two of the Bucharest districts, with immediate results as “in the first days after the people received that information, there were hundreds and hundreds of calls.”
Savu says the campaign addresses those elderly people who are still able to work, want to feel useful and last but not least, want to gain an extra penny on top of the pension that they receive from the state. In fact, says Savu, there is no discrimination between elderly employees and younger ones. In other words, employees earn the same wage no matter how old they are.
“The salary is in accordance with the number of hours they work which is their choice. Employees are only asked to perform activities that match their age and strength. If they work for four hours, they receive the corresponding salary, if they work for six hours, they get a higher salary, and if they work for eight hours they receive payment for eight hours,” says Savu.
McDonald's openness towards hiring elderly people is also due to social reasons, not necessarily on a shortage in the labor force, says Savu. Following the same principle, McDonald's also offers work to people living in villages close to the big cities who are offered free of charge transportation.

By Otilia Haraga

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