Older workers valued

American workers over 50 are valued by employers for their experience, knowledge, and work habits, according to a survey released this week by the American Association of Retired Persons. The survey of 400 corporations, conducted by Yankelovich, Skelly, and White, contradicts the belief that older workers are inviting targets for business cost-cutting because of their high salaries and benefit costs. Ninety percent of the employers surveyed consider older workers to be cost effective.

Employers give older workers their highest marks for productivity, attendance, satisfactory work performance, and commitment to quality. Older workers received their lowest ratings on acceptance of new technology. The study also found negative perceptions among employers of older workers' competitiveness, flexibility, and adaptability in learning new skills. Nearly half of those surveyed believe that skills training for older employees would prove effective, although only 3 in 10 companies currently offer such training programs.

The AARP study predicts that older workers will be in greater demand in the next decade because fewer people will be entering the work force during the 1990s, possibly resulting in labor shortages. The survey also suggests that older workers will stay in the work force longer for financial reasons.

According to John Denning, president-elect of AARP, the Yankelovich survey was commissioned because ``a true picture of the capabilities of older workers is essential to our nation's economic and social planning for the future''.

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