50th St. Gallen Symposium "Freedom Revisited": 7–8 May 2020


On the Job Market at Any Age

Carina Roth, 31, is the co-founder of WisR, an Austrian online platform that helps match retirees with companies looking for qualified workers. Since its founding in 2017, the start-up has grown tremendously: It’s brought about 3,000 retirees and over 200 companies together. “Every person, despite their age, can do anything,” says Roth. “Age does not define who we are.”

Roth grew up in the Austrian countryside. After finishing her MBA, she began working as a commodities trader. After three years, she wanted to start her own business. “I wanted to do something more purposeful,” she says now. “I did have an impact with my job, but not enough.”

So Roth went looking for co-founders in the start-up scene. In Vienna, she met entrepreneur Klaudia Bachinger, who was looking for a business person in her team. Bachinger wanted to build a platform where retirees could find a job. “What I liked about the idea of WisR, was that it would serve a real need and problem. This would be something long lasting and sustainable,” Roth says.

The platform helps address a global workforce crisis caused by ageing populations. It also serves a social function. “Work provides social contact,” says Roth, something researchers have shown keeps people healthy and happy in their old age. It offers a way to help maintain the expertise and experience of retirees and reduce poverty in places where retirees are seeing their benefits get cut. In Germany for example, 50% of people retiring in 2020 will need to make up a shortfall of 700 euro per month to maintain their standards of living.

But why should companies hire elderly? “They have technical knowledge,” says Roth. retirees often have twenty, thirty or forty years of experience in their field of expertise. Recently, the company matched a retired technical drawer with somebody who creates an exoskeleton. “He really helped this young company with their product development,” says Roth

“What I liked about the idea ... was that it would serve a real need and problem. This would be something long lasting and sustainable.”
Carina Roth
Carina Roth

Also, present-day retirees are a very loyal generation. According to Roth, they are less likely to jump around and switch positions. Besides, this group of older people are highly motivated. “They are already done working,”  says Roth. “They don’t have to work, they want to work.”

For the retirees, WisR is free. Companies, on the other hand, pay for access to the platform.

The founders of WisR have international ambitions. There are plans to move the platform to several European countries, the United States, and Asia. “By 2030 there will be a worldwide labour shortage, because of demographic ageing,” says Roth. “We could go country after country, but we could also create a global platform”. In the last case, people in one country could be matched with companies in another country. Roth: “Everything is possible”.