Économie et Statistique n° 437 - 2010 Employees over 50 and Information Technology - Impact of Thresholds of 10, 20, and 50 Employees on the Size of French Firms - Impact of Survey Method on Measurement of Mobility Behaviour
Employees Over 50 and Information Technology: A Comparison Between the Public and Private Sectors
In the 1990s and 2000s, many studies revealed the negative impact of corporate technical and organizational changes on the employment of older workers. This adverse effect of change was attributed to a failure by seniors to adapt to information technology (IT), leading to a devaluation of the skills they had acquired in their careers. Moreover, training in new technologies is often regarded as less efficient and less profitable when provided to seniors rather than to younger employees. We take a fresh look at seniors' adjustment to IT using the results of a 2006 survey entitled “Organizational Change and IT Introduction” (Changement Organisationnel et Informatisation: COI), whose coverage extends to central-government administrative activities. Unlike the private sector, the central-government civil service keeps all of its tenured staff in employment, irrespective of their presumed ability to adjust to change. If older employees generally had trouble accepting the new technologies, their use of IT should decline with age in the central-government civil service even more so than in market sectors. The empirical results show, on the contrary, that the use of IT persists after age 50 in the civil service, whereas it declines with age in the private sector. The State offers its employees IT training more often and for longer periods than the private sector. A majority of senior employees have benefited from such training throughout their careers. Mutual help between colleagues also seems to promote access by seniors to the latest IT tools. When their tasks require it, and when their organization plans accordingly, employees over 50 can therefore adjust to new IT tools.