Digitalization in Occupations and Self-Perceptions of Aging of Older Workers

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Abstract

Digitalization alters working processes, contents, and skill demands for workers. Common age stereotypes attribute lower digital competences and abilities to adapt to technological changes to older workers. Thus far, it is unclear how workers’ self-perceptions of aging (SPA) are affected by the emergence of digital skill demands at work. Therefore, this study investigates if and how digital skill demands in occupations are associated with the level of and changes in older workers’ SPA. To shed light on this question, data from the German Ageing Survey (2014 and 2017) is used. In latent change score models, the level and change of workers’ SPA in the domains of physical and social losses, ongoing development, and self-knowledge are investigated. Level and change of digitalization in workers’ occupations are used as predictors of change and are based on digital skill demands in occupations that are determined via job ads data. Interindividual differences in the baseline levels and interindividual differences in changes in all domains of SPA are found. When controlling for digitalization in occupations, sociodemographic and job-related characteristics, higher digitalization levels (DLs) in occupations are associated with improvements in SPA in the domains of ongoing development and self-knowledge. No significant associations with older workers’ SPA are found for changes in the DL. Our results suggest that compassionate ageism that intends to protect older workers from digital demands is inappropriate, since indications of empowering effects in some domains of SPA have been found.