Human Capital, Skills, and Work Performance

Aging is affecting countries more profoundly than ever before, making it important to understand the skills and capacities of the over-50s.

old lady at laptop

old lady at laptop

One major contribution from the ACC project has been to move the academic focus away from individual productivity outputs (such as work performance measures, salaries, value-added) towards determinants (cognition, strength, health, personality, education) of productivity, see (Skirbekk 2004; Stonawski and Skirbekk 2012; Skirbekk, Loichinger, and Barakat 2012; Engelhardt et al. 2010; Skirbekk and Frosch 2009).

Important work in this domain includes the first assessment of the global population majority's cognition by age, where a new measure of ageing based on functioning rather than age (cognitively adjusted dependency ratios) identified that nations are often functionally relatively young in spite of having older age distributions (Skirbekk, Loichinger, and Weber 2012). ACC has identified how trends in labour market demand in terms of changes in physical demands and specific type of cognitive skills have influenced the relative productivity of older workers (Gordo and Skirbekk 2013).

Rather than only showing associations (schooling is related to cognition, but the causal effect has been unknown), a recent study was able to identify a causal effect (not only related to selection into education) on cognition at older ages (Schneeweis, Skirbekk, and Winter-Ebmer 2014). ACC also identified how national stereotypes of seniors can have independent effects on the perceptions of senior workers (Bowen and Skirbekk 2013).

Further, the group has focused on the relative economic situation of younger adults, which has been deteriorating over time (Sanderson, Skirbekk, and Stonawski 2011) and its effects on fertility and family formation (Skirbekk 2011; Sobotka, Skirbekk, and Philipov 2011).

ACC research has received considerable attention in several general science journals (e.g., New Scientist) and has been discussed in media around the world, including The New York Times, the TV news channel CNN, and a number of discussions of work in "The Economist".

Print this page

Last edited: 07 April 2014

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313