Wrong numbers

Deloitte Insights

Wrong numbers

Why a focus on age can mislead workforce development

Authors: Gildas Poirel (FR) & Dr. Michela Coppola (DE)

Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, one of the pressing human resource issues confronting organisations was managing an increasingly multigenerational workforce. The crisis provides an opportunity to examine if the traditional approach of segmenting by age groups remains valid in a time when the demographic profile of the workforce is changing dramatically.


Organisations in Europe are grappling with the consequences of a rapidly ageing workforce. Declining birth rates following the baby boomer generation (1946–64) means countries now face shrinking populations. This leaves organisations chasing a diminishing pool of younger talent. Meanwhile, improvements in health and mortality, as well as increases in the minimum age to access retirement benefits, in countries such as Germany, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom, means people are working longer.

These trends are dramatically altering the demographic profile of the workforce. For example, the number of workers in Europe age 50+ increased by 32 per cent from 2010–19, while those below age 35 declined slightly (-1%). Whereas the 27 countries in the European Union plus the United Kingdom had 58 million workers age 50+ in 2010, in fewer than ten years this number had risen to 77 million. At the same time, those below age 35 fell from 70 million to 69 million.

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