For the first time in 2015, more people in Switzerland will celebrate their 65 birthdays than their 20th. The arrival of the baby boom generation at retirement age will further accentuate skills shortages in the Swiss labour market in the years to come. Even fluctuating exchange rates will not be able to alter that much. So political and business leaders must start thinking urgently about how to close the looming gaps.

In the latest in Avenir Suisse’s “avenir standpunkte” series, project leader Jérôme Cosandey focuses on the potential for using older workers. Seniors approaching, or just past, statutory retirement age could expand the workforce by 10,000s, avoiding the politically sensitive issue of immigration and quotas. Polls show that some 57% of workers over 60 would be prepared to continue beyond official retirement age if the conditions were right.

With that in mind, employers should think more about special jobs for seniors that could be framed to offer more leeway over working hours and a more gradual move into retirement. Unions and other interested parties should also be open to greater flexibility. A trust based, flexitime system – to give just one example – would allow working time flexibility not just during the normal working week, but also allow provision for special projects or production deadlines. By contrast, employers, unions and politicians should be wary of excessive job protection – like longer notice periods or “right to work” clauses – for older employees, as those would only make hiring older workers more difficult and expensive.