Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Experienced job seekers and senior employees currently in the workplace are reporting age discrimination; it is not just about the baby boomers, but strangely enough, individuals in their mid-thirties are also facing age discrimination in their workplace. In such a scenario, a working professional can consider himself washed out as soon as he reaches forty years of age. As there is a continuous influx of younger people entering the workforce, the situation is only likely to get worse unless governments adequately deal with the problem. Governments have been slow to respond and come up with legislation to combat the problem. A recent report by the United Nations on aging has warned that in 10 years, the number of people over the age of 60 will cross the one billion mark. How societies deal with this impact right now is crucial.
Some people claim that complaining about age discrimination will do no good, both to the employee and the employer. Older people are healthier and living longer. Older workers are more active today than they were a generation ago. Instead, one should look at it in a positive manner and try to exhibit traits and performance that an employer usually expects from a good employee, no matter what the age. Though most organizations refrain from commenting on the age discrimination issue, there are some who openly accept the existence of such discrimination in the workplace, and some of them even justify such discrimination. Companies that justify age discrimination highlight the following issues relating to senior working professionals. However, these are commonly held myths, beliefs and prejudices which support age discrimination. Justifying age discrimination can lead to lawsuits against any employer found guilty of age discrimination practices.
• Senior employees are rigid and stuck in their methods of doing things. They are not very receptive about new changes happening within the organization. Not true. How people react to change is very individualistic.
• Failing or poor health is another factor that goes against senior employees. The medical problems relating to senior workers affect their attendance and, as a result, their productivity. Absenteeism can be found across all age groups.
• The aging population is afraid of newer technologies. They feel such technologies would put them out of work. New technology can put anyone out of work. Outsourcing work can come at a high cost when jobs are moved to lower cost locations such as third world, developing nations.
• Older workers are slow to change and also slow on learning new concepts. This preconceived notion is another prejudice older workers face. With the correct training, anyone of any age can adapt to new concepts.
• With years of highly developed and expert knowledge backing their expertise, baby boomers are unwilling to hear new ideas and suggestions. This is another prejudice against older workers. Older workers have the maturity and background experience to handle situations younger workers do not have the knowledge and experience to deal with.
• As the aging population is experienced and possesses advanced levels of expertise, their services are expensive as well. Though a well-equipped and skillful employee is what every company wants on board, most of the technical knowledge and expertise of the senior executives goes unused at the workplace. This is true in a workplace where experience and expertise is undervalued.
• Investing in young graduates is a more sensible move from a long-term business perspective, as the baby boomers would not stay with an organization for a longer time period, thereby making little sense of the money invested in their training. Another prejudice which hurts senior workers and denies them opportunities for career development and advancement.
• Senior executives are slow movers, physically. They are low on energy when compared to younger legs and cannot sustain longer working hours, if needed. Another myth. It has also been observed that younger workers can be late, absent and with low energy levels.
• The aging population has an aversion for risk and they like to play safe. Modern companies like risk-takers and employees with lateral thinking, even if there is some risk involved. Another preconceived idea our society needs to take a look at.
Governments are currently examining age discrimination legislation. They need to. If the UN report predictions are correct, government and workplaces will have to act because there are serious societal issues at stake. One billion people over the age of 60 will need to be employed to contribute to the tax base and public healthcare systems. Not dealing with this will mean that a younger, smaller workforce will be paying higher taxes to fund the pensions and health care systems to support older workers without employment. This places an unfair tax burden on youth. It is in everyone’s best interest that anyone who wants a job will be able to find one without facing age discrimination and diminishing opportunity.
Older workers are equally competent and capable and by law must be offered the same opportunities as younger employees. Without age discrimination legislation, we waste a generation of contributors with high levels of experience and expertise. Young tax payers will be forced to pay into government pensions plans to support an aging population, not knowing if there will be a government pension system in place when they retire. The tax burden will be a heavy one on the youth, unless corporations fight age discrimination in the workplace. One must also remember too that although you are young right now, you will also, hopefully, become a part of the older generation and will not want to face same issues of prejudice for the sole reason of your age.