As life expectancy increases, the share of seniors in the labor force will increase. A revolution to which companies, like training, are still unprepared


Gray Planet (4/6). Something Robocop, or news of Asimov: at first glance, these strange accoutrements seem straight out of a classic science fiction. On one of the models, two metal leg-plated structures help support high weight. On the other side, a half armor attached to the shoulders facilitates upward movements, while supporting the neck.

"We test these exoskeletons in many factories, like the one in Munich: they relieve workers doing repetitive tasks on assembly lines," says Christin Hölzel, head of ergonomics at BMW. Objective: to protect their health. In particular that of seniors, to allow them to keep their position as long as possible.

Audi, Daimler, Volkswagen: today, most German industrial groups deploy similar technologies, while reviewing their organization of work to simplify the lives of older employees.

"They understand that they do not have much choice," says Hannes Zacher, a specialist in work organization at Leipzig University. At least, if they want to be able to cope with the coming decline of the workforce. "

This one promises to be dizzying. By 2050, Germany, 83 million people today, will lose 11 million people of working age, according to the Robert Schumann Foundation, while the working population of the European Union (EU, 513 million inhabitants) will melt 49 million people. "It's a combination of aging and longer life expectancy - we're going to work longer, not just to fund our pensions," says Martin McKee, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene. Tropical Medicine. Provided you can do it in good conditions. " And that accommodation is provided for those who, because of the arduous nature of their jobs, will not be able to do.

Problem: With the exception of some pioneers of the German car, very few employers are prepared for this gray revolution. According to a March 2010 survey of Deloitte's firm of 11,000 companies worldwide, half of them have no plans to support employees over 55 years of age.