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Age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay

Discrimination against the older worker: One reason why those who are unemployed usually have great difficulty in finding a new job is that their accumulated skills and experience have little currency in the modern workplace. Those who are employed are valued for their task- and organisation-specific skills and experience. Three important myths about older workers concern their trainability, attitude to change, and anticipated productivity.

This paper argues that most employers, and society as a whole, are not sufficiently aware of the new realities of ageing and the implications this has for the workforce.

Discrimination against the older worker: psychology and economics (2005)

The central issue is not that the mean age of workers is increasing but whether productivity can be maintained. The discussion is placed in the context age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay the pressures on employers to maintain profitability and effectiveness.

Education, of both employers and older workers, is required to correct the invalid assumptions of this analysis in order to increase mature aged workforce participation. Organisations which are not proactive in addressing these issues are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage when the impact of labour shortages really starts to hit.

Discrimination and stereotypes It is hard to argue against the claim that older job-seekers are discriminated against, since their success rate in finding a job is so much less, and their length of unemployment is so much longer, than those of younger job-seekers.

Older workers who are in employment are also discriminated against, since they are offered training opportunities at a much lower rate than younger workers. Discrimination is usually a consequence of stereotypes, which may or may not be erroneous. A stereotype is a general impression about a group of people, objects or activities.

Stereotypes have a very useful function in reducing cognitive load, since it is not possible to make intimate acquaintance with all the individuals we meet, see or hear about in order to make accurate judgements about them. It is a basic age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay strategy to use short-hand representations stereotypes about groups of people in order to function effectively.

A stereotype may lead to prejudice a negative attitude but it may also lead to a positive attitude eg the Salvation Army is good because it helps poor peopleand it may also be neutral, with no emotional content.

How do people form stereotypes? Stereotypes are formed out of input from the environment, including what people are told by their family members or friends, personal exposure to members of the stereotyped group, books and journal articles, and images and information in the media.

The academic literature on the competencies of older workers mainly presents 'positive' images, often emphasising their reliability, punctuality, positive work ethic, wealth of life and work experience, and wisdom. However, research also shows that many people hold negative stereotypes about older workers, including that they are resistant to change, inflexible, less able to learn new skills, and less capable of adapting to modern work requirements.

This mixture of positive and negative inputs contributes to an ambivalent impression about older workers. Take unemployed workers first. The human impact of mature aged unemployment is profound, with serious social, psychological, and short-term and long-term financial implications over and above those affecting younger unemployed people. One of the many psychological consequences is frustration about not being able to use the skills and experience accumulated over decades of employment.

Older unemployed people commonly decry the waste of their human capital which could be used for the benefit of society. After many attempts to get a job, any job, it comes as a severe shock to realise that their skills and talents are not valued in the marketplace. This is because what prospective employers look for is the best match between the prospective employee and the skills required to perform a specific task in the work environment of that specific organisation, not the skills and experience accumulated in a different workplace in the past.

Regarding currently employed older workers, research shows that they are highly valued because of their expert ability to fulfil their roles in the organisation. Apart from fulfilling their specified task requirements, these may include mentoring of other staff and contributing wisdom, calmness and a long-term perspective to the mix of talents and abilities of a multigenerational work team. However, when it comes to employing new people there is a different story.

In order to try to understand why older job-seekers have poor success in the marketplace, our research team asked employers to rate how important the following work-related attributes were when deciding whether to take on a new recruit: Figure 1 shows that all the categories of attributes were rated as important but the most important were considered to be interpersonal skills, work personality, and teamwork skills.

  • It denotes the wider level of social forces, the socio-political dimension of interlocking patterns of power and influence;
  • This paper argues that most employers, and society as a whole, are not sufficiently aware of the new realities of ageing and the implications this has for the workforce.

Rated importance of hard and soft skills and personality in recruitment decisions. Since the literature indicates that the strengths of older workers include life experience, positive work ethic, and wisdom as well as work experience, on these results they should be favoured over younger workers in recruitment decisions. However, we found that, apart from hard skills, older workers are perceived as not being as good as their younger workmates, as the Figure 2 demonstrates. As part of the same survey, we asked participants to think of an actual workmate in each of six age-groups and rate that person on these six categories of attributes.

If there was no-one in any particular age-group they skipped that set of questions. The figure shows that, up to age 64, older workers were considered to be better at hard skills, but for all other categories they were viewed less positively than their younger counterparts. Mean ratings of different age-groups of target employees on human capital from Ranzijn, 2004.

Although the differences between the age-groups are not great, they may nevertheless mean the difference between employing a younger rather than an older person in a competitive environment where profit margins are slim.

It could be argued that these results are only perceptions, and therefore may not be objectively accurate. However, perceptions are the crucial factor, since it is subjective impressions and perceptions that determine whether or not an employer hires a particular person. No matter how good a person may actually be, if the employer does not think they will be any good they will not hire them.

Older workers in the new world of work I'd like to talk for a while now about the role of older workers in the modern age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay environment.

How are older workers faring in 'the new world of work'? Unfortunately, their much-touted 'virtues' of reliability, conscientiousness, and so on, may actually count against them in the contemporary work environment, where the fashionable virtues are creativity, innovativeness and entrepreneurialism, qualities more commonly associated with youth. Reliability and conscientiousness in an older person may even be regarded as stodginess and inflexibility, liabilities instead of assets.

The modern world of work is characterised by constant change, requiring continuous adaptation and updating of skills. To what extent are older workers adaptable and trainable? In an interview study conducted late last year we asked work-group managers about their older workers' attitudes to change and their ability to learn new skills compared to younger ones. In general, they said that age in itself was not a factor, that it depended on personality and individual attitude more than age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay else, and that on average there were no differences.

While many said that young people embrace and welcome change, others commented that the older workers have had to adapt to change throughout their working lives and that they accept change as a fact of working life.

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Similar comments were made about trainability. They said that different age-groups may have different preferred learning styles, but once the need to up-skill is explained and understood workers of all ages are equally able to learn new skills. Trainability of older workers: Assuming that one of the main concerns for managers was productivity, we asked 169 workgroup managers to rate workers in six different age-groups on the extent to which training in a range of skills would represent a return on investment.

In the Figure 3, a score of 1 indicates 'no return', 2 equals 'some return', 3 represents 'moderate return' and 4 indicates 'large return'.

The figure shows that the investment in training is considered worthwhile for all age-groups, but that the return on investment is expected to decline linearly with age. It follows that it is more sensible economically to train younger workers than older ones. Expected return on investment in training of different kinds of skills, by age-group of employee.

These results indicate either that the managers expect the skills of older workers will not increase after training as much as younger workers or that older workers will not stay as long. Both of these assumptions are questionable.

I'd like to digress for a while to make some points about training of older unemployed job-seekers. Many mature aged job-seekers were competently holding down responsible positions when they were made redundant due to organisational restructures or lost their jobs when their organisation collapsed.

  • Therefore, even in a time of a spreading use of Viagra, the assumptions seem to be that older people are not sexually active and that their sexuality somehow disappears at a certain age;
  • At the same time they noticed the nature of the sample, in which the elderly were members of the so called Groups of the Third Age Grupos da Terceira Idade , in which members are stimulated by activities and conferences to think positively about their age, which potentially helps to increase their self-esteem and more easily deal with prejudices COUTO et al;
  • Journal of Social Issues, n;
  • The new sixties in Brazil;
  • We argue that ageism and the practice of age discrimination in Brazil should be viewed as part of the multiple forms of discrimination experienced by individuals.

Without constant upgrading, skills depreciate even for people who are employed, but skills atrophy much more rapidly through disuse. Furthermore, separation from work means that unemployed job-seekers may not be keeping up with changes and developments in contemporary work practices and requirements, and their social capital is likely to become depleted through losing contact with their personal networks.

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As a result, it may take more effort to get an older job-seeker up to speed than a younger one, especially after a long period of unemployment. In order to keep older job-seekers employable, early intervention is essential, consisting of upgrading generic skills as well age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay training for a new job, possibly in an entirely different occupation.

It is pleasing to see, in the 2005 Budget, that more money is being allocated towards early intervention and more targeted training.

Since age does not predict work performance or trainability, there is no reason, possibly apart from physical health and strength factors needed for certain occupations, why apprenticeships and other training schemes should be limited to younger people. There is no reason why people in their 40s, 50s or beyond can't learn entirely new and different trades and occupations if they want to. An example from one of our studies is of a man in rural Victoria who used to be a manual worker but, due to external and personal circumstances, lost his job and eventually retrained in a totally different field, as a youth worker with homeless people.

We need to loosen our shackled thinking which locks people into rigid categories based on what they have done in the past. An 'unskilled' worker is not equivalent to an unintelligent one, they just may not have had the opportunity to try a 'skilled' occupation yet. The central issue is not that the mean age of workers is increasing but that the relative size of the workforce is reducing.

Workforce ageing is about productivity, not age, and focusing on 'the older worker' as an older person rather than an individual may actually be a barrier to developing workable policies to address the serious issues arising from a reduced workforce.

We also asked employers what their policies age discrimination against elderly workers social work essay regarding workforce ageing. Hardly any organisations had a coherent and well-developed policy, and in most cases the ad-hoc procedures were focussed on holding onto their older workers 'just a little longer'.

There is an urgent need for more creative policy approaches. A reduced workforce raises questions about maintaining productivity, since there are limits to what technology can achieve as well as limits to how much harder people can work.

Another policy solution that has been proposed is increasing the birth rate although this policy initiative, emphasised in the 2004 budget, is strangely absent from the 2005 budget, which is aimed at getting mothers into the workforce as quickly as possible.

Age Discrimination Legislation in the United States

Another suggestion is to import more skilled workers, which is likely to have at best a short-term effect. The most viable solution seems to be to focus on getting the best value out of older workers.

The new realities of ageing There is an urgent need to increase the awareness of employers, and society as a whole, about the new realities of ageing and the implications this has for the workforce. Increasingly, evidence shows that older workers are trainable in new technology, that they are cognitively able to keep up with demanding intellectual work, that they have lower injury rates, and, apart from occupations requiring physical strength and exertion, they are physically healthy until well into their 60s or beyond.

Society needs to undergo a paradigm shift in its understanding of ageing. A 50-year-old is only halfway through adult life. A 50-year-old is in the prime of life, nowhere near the end of life.

A man who retires at 70 is likely on average to live well into his 80s and a woman to almost 90. A 70-year-old retiree today is likely to have a much longer post-retirement life, and furthermore to be in better functional health, than a 65-year-old retiree thirty years ago.

Look at the huge demographic shift we are undergoing, which is leading to massive increases in the number of people aged 40 or more and especially aged 55 or more, as Figure 4 indicates. Australian population and labour force projections 1998-2016 modified from ABS, 1999. These projections come from the ABS. I added the colour, using as cutoff points ages 55, the current average retirement age, and 75, the average healthy life expectancy, the age at which physical problems start to affect normal functioning.

The projections assume that the participation rateas distinct from the number of workers in different age-groups, remains constant. The orange and pink sections together represent the expected huge increase in the number of older people over the next decade and a half. It is also clear that there will be no increase in the number of children or adults under 35. The orange coloured section shows that there will be around an additional 1.

This is about the same as the total of the current number of unemployed people 500,000 plus those on disability pensions 700,000both of which are being targeted in the 2005 Budget as a way to increase workforce participation.

  • Ageism like racism depends on stereotyping;
  • Journal of European Social Policy, v;
  • With the lack of adequately trained professionals in the caring professions older people become more vulnerable.