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Stats on feelings of age discrimination

This piece in Personnel Today reports on research by Total jobs which was widely covered in the HR and recruitment press (including OnRec and the Total Jobs blog).  The stats from the survey of those searching for jobs were reported as follows:

“Almost two-thirds (63%) of 55- to 64-year-olds say that they have felt discriminated against by a prospective employer because of their age…..One in three (33%) 16- to 24-year-olds had felt age discrimination, with this number falling to 21% for 25- to 34-year-olds and 22% for 35- to 44-year-olds.

Whereas 82% of people aged 55- to 64 and 62% of 45 to 54-year-olds see their age as a disadvantage when applying for a job, just 31% of 16- to 24-year-olds and 16% of 25 to 34-year-olds feel the same”

Frustratingly there did not appear to be a link to the survey report, even from the TotalJobs blog report (this includes a link to an October news summary but there is little detail).  However there were two interesting issues that these raised for me, aside from the headline news about older workers and age discrimination:

  • Despite the abolition of the default retirement age an ‘older worker’ in surveys such as these seems to have an upper age limit of 64.  What is the experience of those older than 64 and why is it ignored in surveys such as these?
  • I am not convinced that describing the figure of 16-24 yr olds as “just 31%” seems appropriate.  So yes, this figure is about half the percentage reported by those in the 55-64 age category BUT it is twice that reported by 25-34 yr olds.

In fact, when represented in their own tweet, while the experience reported by 55-65 year olds obviously stands out, the figures across the board suggest that age is experienced as an issue by many during the recruitment process:



Women and changes to state pension age: WASPI

Yesterday we looked at the effect of divorce on older women in the US in terms of it increasing their likelihood of having to work for longer in later life. What about in the UK?

A report by Prudential in 2013 found that women’s retirement incomes were particularly vulnerable to the financial effects of divorce and pensions. And interestingly, there was an increase of 4% over two years for divorces granted to those over-60 whereas divorce rates for all other age groups fell by more than 11%. And it’s women born in the 1950s (now in their late 50s and 60s) who are currently affected by the way in which changes to the state pension are being implemented (see WASPI website).

WASPI are currently seeking to crowdfund legal challenges, including potentially a judicial review of the legality of changes to state pension age in the UK, in the hope of securing a better pension deal for the affected women. On their website, they highlight from written evidence the effect on older women with regard to work of the implementation of state pension changes:

  • “The job market isn’t ready to accept older women – many women are forced to accept zero hours, temporary and low paid contracts, which offer no financial security.
  • They are being forced to take jobs which are inappropriate to their state of health.
  • To qualify for limited Job Seekers’ Allowance, women are enduring humiliating tests/competitions by Seetec otherwise they face sanctions.
  • They are being forced to accept jobs which place them in a worsened financial situation”.

Women and divorce: Effects on working in later life

This Working Paper by Claudia Olivetti and Dana Rotz for the National Bureau of Economic Research has examined the relationship between women’s current marital status, past marital history, and later life labour market participation. The authors looked at the data for over 55,000 women in the US between between 1986 and 2008. From this, they were able to examine the financial impact of divorce on women, particularly regarding their ability to retire. 

What they found was that when women unexpectedly divorce later in life, they are less likely to have engaged in what they term ‘precautionary human capital investment’ (things like education and training) and are therefore more likely to have to work longer to increase their pension/capital prior to retirement. Women who got divorced in their 50s were 10% more likely to work full time in older age than those who got divorced before their 30s.

As cited in the Money Mic article which discusses these findings, there are quite differing poverty rates in the US for older men and women. The poverty rate for women divorcees over the age of 50 is 27% whereas for older men it is less than 12%.


Self-employed earnings at all ages

Management Today were amongst those who covered the announcement about self-employed earnings in the UK. Readers of this blog will know that both younger and older workers have typically been exhorted to set up their own businesses as a way of avoiding unemployment (or discrimination). The headline, based on a report published by the Resolution Foundation, is that whilst there are increasing numbers of self-employed, they are earning less than they did 20 years ago. The fall of 15% in self-employed income compares to a rise of 14% in typical employee earnings.

Of course the 15% fall hides some complexity but the highest and lowest 1% self-employed earners were excluded and the figures are based on median calculations, i.e. a measure of central tendency less affected by outliers than when using the mean. The Foundation’s Quarterly Briefing provides some further detail, including some analysis by age and gender.

The self-employed now make up 1 in 7 workers. Typical earnings for the self-employed were lower in 2014-15 than in 1994-95, twenty years earlier. Whilst earnings have fallen across the board, men have incurred larger falls than women, and those over 54 have incurred smaller falls than younger workers. There has been some ‘compositional change’ in that a smaller percentage of the self-employed working more than 40 hours per week and a sunstantial reduction in the percentage of self-employed who have employees. So, the shape of self-employment has shifted towards a single person enterprise working fewer hours each week. But there has been speculation as to other reasons such as the rise in the gig economy, the precarious nature of work and some renewed calls for the introduction of a Basic Income.

The Resolution Foundation also calls for the self-employed to be included in any labour market statistics.

More on generational differences

I know, a novel topic for my blog post!  But bear with me.

This post on ‘Generational differences at work: Myth or Reality’ should be right up our street!  And yes it highlights some interesting findings from a quantitative study*  but the blog post provides a link to the wrong paper.  (Or at least a different paper.) I’ve just wasted 20 mins writing a post about the difference between a secondary analysis and a meta analysis before I realised this!

HOWEVER: the point we frequently make here is that generational labels need to be investigated themselves, and unpacked as constructions rather than ‘natural’ groupings of individuals.  AND these constructions have an impact

Sadly no access to the actual paper today due to IT issues at my library so a few tweets on the topic to compensate:

*Costanza, D. P., Badger, J. M., Fraser, R. L., Severt, J. B., & Gade, P. A. (2012). Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology

#Dispatches on generational wealth gap

In closing last night’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches Fraser Nelson concludes that “tensions between the generations might just boil over”.  Yet what was evident in the documentary was concern expressed by all ages interviewed about issues relating to the wealth divide.  That is the divide between those who have wealth and those who don’t.  While this was couched in both generational and age terms in the programme (check elsewhere on our blog for critique of this conflation, and re conflating generation in the familial vs cohort sense) what was evident to me was that ALL those interviewed (largely living in Bristol it appeared to me) seemed similarly concerned about the housing market and issues of student debt AND the role of government in creating/perpetuating/resolving these.  There are obviously real issues impacting younger people in the UK today, but pitching them against an older age group seems unhelpful to everyone.  It was interesting in that discussing intergenerational households (of personal interest as I live in one) that only the views of the younger member of the family were taken into account.   There seemed to be an unreasonable attempt to ‘blame’ pensioners for pension policy.  That simply doesn’t make sense.

On twitter there seems to be concern with a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to the programme which avoided other aspects of, and reasons for, wealth divisions in this country.  As can be seen in the randomly selected sample below, there was also concern about significant political bias.

So while there were some interesting issues raised, the overall focus on generational tension and conflict seemed unhelpful and uninformative.  Let’s look at the wealth divide itself perhaps next time.

Are Nobel Prize winners getting older or younger?

I ask this question because the BBC News website just published an item about how this year’s Nobel laureates for physics, medicine and chemistry are ‘all men, at least 65 years old and mostly over 72’. The article headline asks ‘Why are Nobel Prize winners getting older?‘ but according to the handy graphics on the BBC website this trend seems to be confined to science subjects. There does’t seem to be much change in the field of litertaure and there’s a reverse trend in peace. The latter is pragmatically explained as the Nobel Committee apparently not wanting to wait to see if peace measures are wholly succesful so recipients get their prizes earlier.

So what’s been happening? In physics, the prize winners used to have an average age of 47 but are now typically in their late sixties. The BBC article poses three possible explanations, drawing on comments from Gustav Källstrand, a senior curator at the Nobel Museum. One, that there is so much information and theory around today that it takes almost a lifetime to assimilate and utilise it so that you can only achieve a major scientific breakthrough in later life. Second, is that scientists make discoveries when they are relatively young, but with thousands of others doing the same, and the need for a high standard of validation, it can take many years to win an award. Third, is that physics in the first half of the 20th century was a rapidly growing field dominated by quantum mechanics (‘a new toolkit which could quickly yield discoveries’) with many young physicists making discoveries quickly.

I’m not even going to comment on the gender aspects of the prizes beyond noting that the trend to award prizes later in life apparently explains why the current gender ratio is still reflecting gender practices sometime in the mid 20th century!

UK Government appoints ‘older workers’ tsar: Latest stats for later life working

The Government have announced the appointment of Andy Briggs, chief executive of Aviva UK Life, as ‘Business Champion for Older Workers’ or ‘older workers tsar‘ as these posts are generally described.  According to Money Marketing, his role will be to explain the advantages of having older staff and to encourage organizations to retain and recruit those over 50.

The work and pensions secretary Damian Green is quoted as saying: “This generation of over 50s can combine the wisdom of experience with the fitness of youth” thus managing to combine two rather unhelpful age stereotypes in one sentence! Being wise and being fit can be attributes regardless of chronological age.

The same story was also covered in the Evening Standard which makes the point that this is part of a wider political imperative of ensuring that people over 50 work for longer.  Briggs will apparently work alongside Business in the Community to promote this approach which he says has benefitted Aviva’s growth and productivity.

A few days ago, the Office for National Statistics produced one of their handy labour market visuals, this one entitled Five Facts about Older People at Work to mark International Day of the Older Person (1st October). The headlines are:

  • ‘The proportion of those aged 65 and over who work has almost doubled since records were first collected;
  • There were 742,000 men and 448,000 women aged 65 and over in employment in the UK in May to July 2016;
  • Part-time self-employed workers tend to be older than part-time employees;
  • The economy may come to rely increasingly on older workers by 2039;
  • The working world for people aged 65 and over is similar to those aged 16 to 64.’

It may be stretching it to describe all of these as ‘facts’ but there are some interesting points to note particularly about the part-time self-employed being older than part-time employees – perhaps something for Andy Briggs to consider. Does this reflect difficulties in being hired or retained as an employee in later life? Is it easier for some – or do they have no option – to become self-employed if you want to remain working?

Age discrimination? The case of the University of the Philippines Diliman

In February this year, we ran one of our occasional ‘Age discrimination: Spotlight on…’ blogposts, looking specifically at the Philippines. Over the summer, the country introduced a new law, the Republic Act 10911, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of age in relation to hiring workers. The Philippine Star reports that the new law will penalize organizations that refuse to appoint people ‘because of their advanced age’ (their words, not mine).

This week, however, sees the intriguing case of four nominees for the post of President of the University of the Philippines Diliman being disqualified from the search because of their age. According to the report on the Inquirer website, the Board of Regents, the university’s highest decision-making body, has stipulated that the next President must complete the full term of six years before he or she turns 70 years old.

Rather bizarrely, given the recent legislative change, this is said to be a recent development. Apparently, the age requirement was only imposed during this current selection process and had not been a criterion in previous presidential searches.

Michael Tan, one of the nominees, is reported as saying: “In effect, it sets 64 years old as the age requirement. I am a medical anthropologist and I can say that the 60s is the new young.” You can read his full statement about the decision via this link (it’s worth a read).

At Birkbeck, our President is Joan Bakewell who, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying, is only 83; our previous President was Eric Hobsbawm who served in that post until his death aged 95 in 2012.

University of the Philippines Diliman: Please take note!

Concern over mental health of young women

While not directly an issue that has currently been linked to issues at work, the UK press headlines this week have been highlighting recent statistics from NHS England.  These show that women age 16-24 are at far higher risk than men of the same age of a variety of mental health issues but also that these rates have increased significantly over recent years.

The numbers here are really alarming, both in general and to those of us with daughters in this demographic.  As the NHS data shows: “In 1993, 19 per cent of 16 to 24 year old women surveyed reported symptoms of CMD (a common mental disorder) compared to 8 per cent of 16 to 24 year old men. In 2014, CMD symptoms were almost three times as commonly reported by women of that age range (26 per cent) than men (9 per cent)“.

Much of the news coverage highlighted the impact on demand for support services in further and higher education but we need to look forward and consider the workplace too.   What type of support will they require as they enter the workplace and how can this best be provided?



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