The central research theme of the Age and Cohort Change (ACC) project is the projection of social and economic change (skills, productivity, attitudes and beliefs) in all countries in the world over the coming decades.
Understanding the age variation in productivity and how to improve senior workers skills and capacities are paramount for aging countries. Aging and cohort change alter values and belief structures. A better understanding of these changes is needed to improve the capacity to develop more targeted policies that relate to societal aging and other demographic change.
Productivity measured against the biological age of a workforce is one aspect of the project, but it is not a straightforward comparison. Countries with active populations, for example, tend to have older people with higher skill levels than countries with sedentary populations. Lifestyle can make a population “effectively younger” than its biological age, says IIASA researcher and project leader Vegard Skirbekk. A population’s attitudes about values such as religion, education, and family structure influence behavior, which, in turn, can influence workplace performance.
Religion (and religiosity), as well as education, strongly influence fertility levels, which can influence whether a particular set of cultural values will be passed to younger generations or simply fade away. By building databases on current attitudes and beliefs, the researchers are developing scenarios of likely changes in the whole world through the year 2050.
The study is also incorporating the flow of migrants into Europe, which affects the distribution of skills and beliefs depending on the migrants’ home countries and their age, education. and religious backgrounds. The project’s goal is to create databases and initiate research that will allow projections of European workforce changes in coming decades and suggest policies to improve the skills and performance of senior workers.