Issues of age in the professions often feature on our blog – whether it is at the older or younger end of the spectrum.
Despite not being the youngest commercial pilot (there are both men and women of 19 flying for commercial airlines) the achievements of 26 year old Kate Williams have been in the news as she has become one of Britain’s youngest commercial pilots. This becomes news not only because of her age but also because she is a woman. Recently EasyJet were reported as saying approximately 6% of it’s pilots are women and they have a programme in place to aid the development and recruitment of female pilots.
In terms of age, there remain regulations in place which limit the upper age for commercial pilots, and given the average age is in the 50’s there are increasing concerns about potential pilot shortages in the future. The age at which a pilot can qualify is dependent on how long it takes to complete the necessary qualifications after they reach the age of eligibility at 18.
We generally blog about age (including instances of discrimination) in relation to work rather than services though the two are not unconnected. I think we have pointed out that if, for example, older workers can’t access mortgages to buy new homes then they are likely to have less mobility within the labour market. In other cases, price structures can be skewed in ways that seem to reinforce particular age stereoypes. So this article in Le News, a website offering local Swiss news in English, link below, caught my eye. It highlights a differential pricing practice by Switzerland’s main mobile operators for mobile phone tariffs based on customer age.
Sunrise offer unlimited surfing and Whatsapp usage at a cost of CHF 60 for those under 30 but those who are older have to pay CHF 100 for a similar package. Salt uses the same age 30 differential and Swisscom increases charges for its customers once they turn 26. It does seem a very blatant example of discrimination; it buys into all manner of age stereoypes around technology use, potentially reinforcing them as well.
Our friends at Lewis Silkin have this handy guide to the position more generally in relation to age discrimination in Switzerland. It looks a rather complex situation with the existence of federal and private law and potentially different rights in relation to employment as opposed to services.
Lots of coverage in the fashion press of the appointment of Vanessa Redgrave (aged 79) as the new face of Gucci, the star of their Cruise 17 campaign. Grazia describe this as an ode to British culture which was filmed in the house and grounds of Chatsworth. According to the Metro, ‘fashion campaigns are completely dominated by lithe, thin young things. But Gucci have come along and reminded us that beauty and style don’t have an age limit.’ It goes on to say approvingly that Redgrave is in this role because ‘she is a legend’. Well, certainly her acting credentials are second to none – though she is also a very beautiful woman. Grazia say ‘Redgrave may not be a new face, but she is certainly a new face of fashion, proving that you can be beautiful at any age‘. One sort of hopes that it isn’t necessary to have to make this point, that this is beyond contention.
However, we can’t ignore that there’s been a considerable debate (including on our blog pages) about the representation – or lack of it – of older women in the media. Broadly speaking, all parts of the media has been widely criticised for not featuring older women whether in TV, film or newspapers. The Hollywood Reporter notes that, recently, a number of older women have taken part in major fashion campaigns: Joni Mitchell (Saint Laurent), Joan Didion (Celine) and Sophia Loren (Dolce & Gabbana). It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a more age-inclusive fashion trend or a limited nod to greater visibility in the media for (a certain type of) older woman.
I managed to be on holiday in Italy throughout the 2012 Olympics (no doubt missing my only chance to see the Games in my home city) so for me the Paralympics were London 2012. It’s been great to catch up with some of the Paralympic stars of the London Games again in Rio.
Dame Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds were both interviewed this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (you can hear this at timemark 2:27) about their future plans. Neither were over-committing themselves at this stage; as Sarah said, some decisions are best made when less champagne has been drunk! She didn’t sound like someone on the verge of retiring from her sport, though.
Dame Sarah (38) has a particularly impressive Paralympian record, having started out as a swimmer at the age of 15, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze in Barcelona in 1992. She continued swimming in the next three Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005. She has now amassed an overall total of 13 gold medals, making her Britain’s most successful female Paralympian.
Ellie Simmonds (who is now 21) was the youngest ever British athlete at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 (when she was only 13) where she won two gold medals for Great Britain. At Rio, she became the first SM6 swimmer to race below three minutes in the 200m medley, setting a new World Record. Even at the comparatively young age of 21, she has already inspired Ellie Robinson, who has the same condition as Simmonds, the 15-year-old who won the S6 50m butterfly at Rio.
This prompted me to look at age limits in relation to the Paralympics. In fact, unlike some of the Olympic sports, it seems that the IPC does not stipulate a general minimum age limit for athletes competing in the Paralympic Games so long as they are ‘adequately prepared for elite level international competition’. I don’t think there’s an upper age limit either. I’m not certain who the oldest Paralympian was at Rio but, according to this article in the Independent one contender might be Zuray Marcano, the 62-year-old weightlifter from Venezuela. She had only competed in the Paralympics once before but that was 16 years ago in Sydney. As noted in the article, at 62 she is at an age where many athletes have already been retired for at least 20 years. She is reported as saying that competing will show people “you can still lead a healthy and productive life when you are in your sixties”.
Congratulations to all those who took part at Rio and huge congratulations to our very sucessful Para GB team.
Two very different articles caught my eye today – both about age and the IT industry.
The first deals with the appointment of Greg Touhill in the new role as US Cyber Chief. Not all coverage featured information about his age but the label ‘retired’ was used in much of the coverage. One article tackled this issue of age directly however. Tom Temin (@tteminWFED) wrote about this appointment in the context of reported age discrimination in the IT sector more broadly under the headline “New Cyber Post goes to Old Guy“. He concludes “rather than repeat platitudes about hiring on ability and not on age, how about if we acknowledge that sometimes you need experience, sometimes you need certain energy or skills that skew young, but most of the time age is a weak predictor of performance or suitability?” We would agree that assuming age is a predictor of performance or suitability is a problem – but would go further in questions whether ‘experience’ should be automatically associated with an older applicant and ‘energy or skills’ with the young.
The second is a very different piece which offers an individual account of ageing in the IT industry, by David Strain who provides advice which perhaps is best taken with a pinch of salt. I’ll leave you to judge for yourself!
We’ve blogged in the past about news coverage of Hillary Clinton’s age and health in the US presidential race, both back in 2014 and more recently in 2015 discussing the unofficial campaign hashtag #GrandmothersKnowBest.
Today, her age, gender and health are back in the headlines following incident’s yesterday which seems to be described as a ‘stumble’ (The Washington Times) which resulted in her being ‘helped’ to her car. As Fox News summarise this is a complex issue which reaches far beyond what actually happened and its potential cause. It is about the reaction by the press and across social media, and emerging concerns about transparency on health issues (which can be leveled at both candidates). The New York Times ran a medical guide to Pneumonia but the use of the term ‘old people’ in this and other coverage only serves to confirm the label is appropriate to Hillary Clinton and acts to differentiate her from Donald Trump – who is actually two years older.
A lot will depend now on how the ‘recovery’ from this ‘episode’ is handled by her team, used by Trump and how both these are received in the press. We may know more in the coming days but we might not be certain until the polls close.
We have reported before on the rather late-in-the-day introduction of age discrimination legislation in Jersey. This has now come into effect. Broadly this means that people will be protected against age-based discrimination in relation to recruitment, employment, clubs and associations, voluntary work and the provision of goods and services. One of the further implications, reported here in the Jersey Evening Post is that organizations are being warned to review their pension schemes. They will need to give careful consideration to how age is applied e.g. to rules and benefits.
Pension schemes are well known for creating age norms through normalising certain chronological age-based assumptions about work and retirement. Yesterday’s post discussing the retirement situation of Canada’s police and firefighters is a case in point. One of the arguments against allowing individuals to work longer is that the relevant occupational pension scheme was set up with benefits accruing at particular times in line with the ‘usual’/mandatory retirement age.
So this is good advice for Jersey. Here on the BBC news website, the Deputy of the States of Jersey, Susan Pinel, is reported as saying that the new legislation meant employers now need to justify retiring an employee before the pensionable age (currently 65). This would include the situation where an employee was “no longer fit to do the job”. She warned that this meant that organizations could not force a qualified and fit worker to retire if they wanted to continue working. Let’s see what happens – chances are we may well see a similar debate to that in the UK and Canada.
We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the issues where working longer is seen as a problem. And more recently a report from the TUC found that almost half a million people in the UK aged 60 to 65 are not working due to ill health or disability which has forced them to leave the labour market prematurely. In this article on the CIPD website, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady is quoted as saying “we must hold off on any further rises in the pension age until we have worked out how to support the one in eight workers who are too ill to work before they even get to state pension age“.
In Canada it seems there is a similar debate taking place regarding older age, physical fitness and (mandatory) retirement. And focus this week has been on those who are physically fit and want to continue to work, as reported in this item in the Times Colonist. This highlights requests by firefighters – and now police – to work past the age of 60. It’s reported that in the City of Vancouver there is a collective agreement with the union that requires all firefighters regardless of classification, gender, or department of service to retire at age 60. Legal challenges to this have apparently been unsucessful. The collective agreement is said to reflect a bona fide employment requirement.
But as we noted, there will always be individuals who want to challenge this and to work longer. Now it seems that a policeman is seeking to do this, notwithstanding a similar collective agreement covering the police. The Oak Bay Police Board has now twice rejected the officer’s desire to work past the age of 60, again because of a contractual mandatory age of retirement.
However, in another part of Canada (Victoria), it seems an exception was made for one officer who wanted to work beyond age 60. I’m going to predict more individual applications to work beyond the mandatory retirement age in such occupations both in Canada and the UK.
Youth unemployment has been a recurring theme in online age at work stories since we started writing this blog. The latest twist – planned cuts to apprentice funding – has been picked up on by a number of Labour MPs – with David Lammy writing this opinion piece today in The Guardian. He situates his argument within a youth unemployment context, citing a current youth unemployment rate of 13.7%.
Within the wider context of apprenticeships, one of the trends we’ve noticed is the introduction of schemes for different including older age groups (like the Barclays Over 50 apprenticeships we blogged about here). Though it’s not clear to me why apprenticeships should be so chronologically age-specific. Why use 50 as a threshold for access to this type of re-training? Why not have apprenticeships available for all ages? They are often said to be a valid and vital counterpart to university. So if we can go to uni at any age then why not start an apprenticeship at any age?
Interestingly, the Government is reported here as wanting to move away from using age (and location) as the basis for different funding rates for apprenticeships and to simplify the system from an employer perspective.
In the meantime, however, the proposed changes specifically relate to funding for apprenticeships for the 16-18 year age group. These would come into effect in May 2017 apparently leading to cuts of 30-50% of funding rates paid to some colleges and training providers that teach young apprentices.
News is that the 2017 Pirelli Calendar preview is out! Why is this news? Because as the Guardian summarises is now features “cardigans and older models“.
I must admit a personal perspective here. My very first consultancy assignment was at a car manufacturer where (in addition to the fact that all the engineers assumed I was the team secretary) I encountered one of these calendars in virtually every workspace I entered. And that includes the IT department and managerial offices.
Still times move on. And so it seems does the Pirelli calendar.
So the average age in the 2017 edition is apparently 44 and there is a focus on actresses rather than ‘just’ models – although that does still seem a rather restrictive pool from which to select from. Although Sky news reports that these are representative of “women of achievement” but since in 2016 this included a wider range (Serena Williams, Patti Smith and Yoko Ono featured) it seems like something of a backward step.
However while the move away from the ‘traditional’ calendar is widely praised there are concerns that Pirelli have not gone far enough. News coverage in Australia has reported that the director of Body Positive Australia Sarah Harry called the decision to raise the age of the women a “marketing ploy”. She raises concerns about the ongoing lack of diversity, both in terms of categories such as ethnicity and cultural diversity but also highlighting that the women featured all fit with ideals of of beauty that are promoted commercially. As The New Daily reports “She also questioned why the calendar was still in existence. “I just can’t understand why we’re still objectifying women in a calendar made by a tyre company,” she told The New Daily.”
Nope. Nor can we.