Demographic challenges for management: fad or reality?

Date01 April 2019
Publication Date01 April 2019
AuthorEleanna Galanaki,Emma Parry,Ilona Bučiūnienė,Leda Panayotopoulou
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
Guest editorial
Demographic challenges for management: fad or reality?
Theory and practice in human resourcemanagement (HRM) generally focusseson two levels
of analysis: the individual and the organization. However, thereis a growing recognition that
HRM is manifested within larger environmental settings and several HRM researchers have
approached the field with a more macro perspective. For example, some HRM researchers
have focussed on the effects of the macroeconomic environment (e.g. Gunnigle et al., 2013;
Bordogna and Pedersini, 2013); others have focussed on the advancement of technology
(e.g. Stone et al., 2015); while yet others have focussed on the social or institutional setting
(e.g. Ashley and Empson, 2013; Brewster et al., 2008; Farndale et al., 2008).
More recently, the macro-level variable of demographics has caught the academic interest
of several HRM researchers. According to the New Palgrave Dictionary of E conomics:
Demography is the analysis of population, including both techniques and substance. It is applied
most often to human populations, and includes the gathering of data, the construction of models,
interpretation of population changes, policy recommendations. (Keyfitz, 2016)
The recent interest of HRM in demographics is based on the multiple dimensions of
significant change in workforce composition and labour supply. For example, the workforce
has been affected by: the higher number of women entering the labour market; a range of
new professions that are emerging (OECD, 2013); and increasing average educational
attainment levels (OECD, 2014b). In addition, working life and careers are extending
(Armstrong-Stassen, 2008) as the result of longer life expectancy and better health levels
(OECD, 2014a). This has led to the cohabitation of multiple age cohorts (generations) in the
workplace arena. Concurrently, geographical shifts of populations (e.g. refugees and
immigrants) have seen a sharp rise recently, affecting both labour supply and demand
(Newman et al., 2016). These changes in workforce composition are affecting the way in
which businesses operate and are managed in multiple ways.
In this special issue of EBHRM, our aim was to gather noteworthy empirical works that
focus on the demographic challenges for HRM, in order to advance the dialogue over the
topicality and importance of the topic for practitioners and researchers. Our focus is broadly
on three types of demographic challenges: ageing, generational diversity and migration.
Ageing. In relation to ageing, never in human history has the population included such a
large proportion of those in their old age. For most countries, regardless of their geographic
location or developmental stage, the group of people, aged 60 or more, is growing fast
(Kinsella and He, 2009). Declining mortality and fertility rates together with increased life
expectancy are reversing most countriesage pyramids (Boehm et al., 2014; Schröder et al.,
2014) and leading to a significant growth of retirees. This is an issue for pension systems
globally, leading governments and employers to either extend, or completely remove, the
default retirement age; and to encourage extended working lives either forcefully (via later
state pension ages) or through incentives. As a result, employers in most regions of the
world are facing larger numbers of older employees.
Having become aware of the need to adapt to an ageing workforce, employers take
actions to enhance employability and performance of mature wo rkers through acti ve
ageing HRM practices (Armstrong-Stassen, 2008) and terms such as resourceful ageing,
positive ageing, healthy ageing and successful ageing are now being used more often
(Angus and Reeve, 2006). However, research on the effectiveness and application of HRM
Evidence-based HRM: a Global
Forum for Empirical Scholarship
Vol. 7 No. 1, 2019
pp. 2-7
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/EBHRM-04-2019-065

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