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Sri Lanka is amongst the fastest ageing countries in the world. This demographic shift brings enormous implications to business enterprises particularly on business operation and sustainability.

However, organizations are somewhat slow in addressing these implications as they are much focused on responding to the immediate critical business issues.

This article is written in view of encouraging corporate world to proactively take measures in responding to this phenomenon without further delay!

Loss of expertise
Companies will face large scale exodus of talent and experience human capital from their workforce reaching traditional retirement age. These employees will take away accumulated organizational knowledge and key information, creating “brain drain”. The industries, which rely heavily on knowledge and technical skills, would be more experiencing this kind of phenomenon.

Appropriate strategies could be developed to retain older workers and transfer their knowledge to other employees, by which the knowledge level in the organizations could be sustained.

Shortage of young talent
There will be shortage of young talent in the national labour force whilst many young local talents may consider migration to developed countries, which also face the similar ageing scenario. This would be further burdened once if the existing low level of female labour force participation is continued in the country.

Bargaining power of the employees is expected to be high. Hence, the employees may demand the employers to adjust employment practices and to raise wages resulting higher operational cost and make them less competitive in the international markets.

Change in retirement age
Unlike in the past, elderly people live healthy and active even at oldest ages due to which many of them may prefer to remain in the workforce even beyond their retirement age.
Hence, traditional retirement ages will be no longer appropriate and companies will have to adjust their retirement policies accordingly.

Furthermore, seniority-based wages is common in our country which makes expensive for organizations to retain older workers. However, companies are moving towards performance related pay scales where terms and conditions could be renegotiated as employees get older.

Productivity
Young employees will face with the challenges of balancing their work with caring of elderly parents which would affect the employees paying full attention on the work, impacting on their productivity.

Trainings could be provided to older employees ongoing basis in order to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date, further boosting their productivity.

Health and safety
Promoting the health, wellbeing and work-life balance of all staff is vital to ensure employees remain active and productive whereas highest level of safety should be ensured as employees may have age related disabilities and diseases.

Workplace flexibility
Flexible working arrangements are necessary to appeal older workers and workers with age-related disabilities who are no longer wish to work traditional full-time schedules.
Companies can ensure a favourable working environment by removing some of the physical barriers and modify the work environment to suit older employees, through which companies could make the workplace more accessible for all employees, including those with disabilities.

Age discrimination
Older employees may face some kind of age discrimination, because of the attitude of employers or colleagues such like curtailing their employee benefits, limiting their training opportunities and job responsibilities.

Organizations have to take certain measures to avoid age discrimination in the workplace and to establish an elderly friendly culture. This requires change in behaviour and attitudes on the part of employers, supervisors and to some extent workers themselves and implement legislation to combat age discrimination.

Emerging market segment
Those over age of 50 years would be the growing market segment representing huge market opportunities. Moreover, increasing life expectancy in Sri Lanka leads to a tremendous demand particularly in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, leisure, tourism and financial services.

Companies will need to redefine their marketing strategies and adjust their business to cater for the silver market.

Need for innovations
Innovation plays significant role in addressing the opportunities and challenges and improve quality of life of senior citizens, whether it is in the marketplace or workplace.

Role of financial institutes
Financial institutes particularly insurance and banks have key role to play in creating high level of awareness among the general public on the needs of retirement plans and savings schemes and assist them on financial planning to live their late ages free of financial burdens.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Organizations could take measures on raising public awareness on elderly and protect their rights and support to fulfill their needs such as establishment of care centres, medical camps, distribution of disability aids and could also financially assist needy public hospitals on improving healthcare facilities provided to senior citizens, under Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

In conclusion, ageing population brings enormous implications to business entities. Companies could proactively align their strategies and actions to face the implications of this paradigm shift, without further delay.