Nowadays, ageism can start in the workplace as early as the age of 42! That means you can expect a minimum of 20 years of discrimination before you retire. Basically, if you are 35, you are practically over the hill in the eyes of some employers. Thankfully, not all employers share this view and there are those who already recognise the value of a mixed age workforce.
Age and the bottom line
The bottom line is that ‘ageism is bad for the bottom line’! Leonid Bershidsky recently shares his opinions on age discrimination in the workplace with Bloomberg, ‘[It’s] a growing problem, not just because equality is increasingly prominent on the political agenda, but because ageism makes less and less economic sense as birth rates go down and nations age.’
Bershidsky goes on to say that, ‘Older workers aren’t less productive than younger ones. And even though some cognitive skills, such as the ability to memorize lots of information, do decline with age, that loss is counterbalanced by a person’s ability to operate on the basis of greater experience. […] Some people are [also] fitter at 60 than others at 30.’
Policies for change
The National Strategic Policy for Active Ageing: Malta 2014-2020 states that, ‘With one in nine persons in the world already aged 60 years and over and projected to increase to as much as one in five by the year 2050, population ageing is a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored and Malta is no exception to ageing trends […].’ Active Ageing MT calls attention to the fact that ‘Transforming a society’s perception of ageing from one of dependency to active ageing requires a paradigm shift […]. Society must not be content solely with a remarkably increased life expectancy, but it must also strive to extend healthy life years and provide opportunities […].’
Surprisingly, ageism is not only reserved for the ‘old’ – it also affects the ‘young’. Sheila Callaham reports for Forbes on a case that was won last year by a 22-year-old in the UK who was told she was too young for the job! In fact, the New York Post reported at the end of 2019 that, ‘Millennials say age discrimination plagues them at work far more frequently than their older counterparts.’
To put it all into perspective, according to a survey by Glassdoor, ‘Just over a third of employees (34 percent) across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany have witnessed or experienced ageism at work.’ To dismiss a third of a perfectly active workforce (young or old) is surely a cause for concern. Whatever the age of a potential employee, the overriding factor should be – is this person capable of doing this job? All other future circumstances are unforeseen. As Mark Twain said, ‘Age is an issue of mind over matter – if you don’t mind – it doesn’t matter.’ Let’s hope that more and more employers keep this in mind this when considering their bottom line in the future.
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