Older staff are more productive than their younger colleagues, say researchers.
More mature members of staff may be weaker and less agile than their junior counterparts, but they more than compensate with their greater experience, ability to work in teams, and success at coping when things go wrong.
The researchers say: ‘While older workers make more errors, perhaps due to declining physical attributes, they hardly make any severe errors, perhaps due to more experience.
‘It is experience that prevents severe errors.’
The scientists who studied production lines at a Mercedes-Benz truck factory in southern Germany also found that younger, more highly educated workers were less productive than those who had fewer qualifications – perhaps because the educated workers got bored more easily.
The researchers, from the University of Mannheim, said their findings debunked the idea that older workers should be made redundant to boost productivity.
They write: ‘In many countries, lower productivity among older workers is used as a motivation for early retirement policies.
‘If this were true, the ageing populations in many developed countries would have negative effects on overall productivity. These results cast doubt on such beliefs.’
The researchers argue that in sectors where physical strength is less important than in manufacturing, such as in the service sector, it is likely that older workers are even more productive.
The researchers also found that a higher proportion of women in the workforce is bad for productivity in young teams and good in old teams.
They say women make fewer errors, but young male workers get distracted, and are likely to make more errors, if women are in the team.