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Oliver Mallett talks about Olderpreneurs on Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed

Having caught the last few minutes yesterday I have just listened to Oliver Mallet discussing his research on ‘Olderpreneurs’ on BBC Radio 4 ‘Thinking Allowed’.  The interview was based on his paper with Robert Wapshott , published earlier in the year in Work Employment and Society: Making sense of self-employment in late career: understanding the identity work of olderpreneurs.

In the interview Oliver highlighted the struggle for legitimacy of those beginning their entrepreneurial journey later in life, particularly in terms of how they compared themselves to the popular images of entrepreneurs that we are familiar with from programmes such as Dragon’s Den.  He highlighted the issue that stereotypes of entrepreneurs (as creative, risk taking etc.) tend to differ from how we seen older people (as being in decline) which creates tensions for these individuals.

It was great to also hear some of the interviews themselves within the programme though I think these were read by actors from the transcripts – but perhaps I’m wrong.  One issue here was how Thomas struggled with ageism in his previous workplace and then having become an entrepreneur found he experienced ageism, just in a different way.  It was also interesting to see how these individuals felt that they were not successful when compared against the popular images on the television and web.

It’s well worth a listen to the programme and of course a read of the paper on especially since it is Older People’s Day.

US figures on death in employment – link suggested to increase in older workers via @FairWarningNews

This report by ‘FairWarning’ (a non-profit investigative news organization focusing on health, safety and environmental issues) might not be the most uplifting reading for a Monday morning but it provides interesting facts and figures about an overall 2% (or just over 4600 deaths) rise in the US of deaths at work.

The report breaks down the totals to date by ethnicity, gender and age.  In particular there is concern that there is a relationship to the increase in workers over 65 and the assumption that these workers will adapt to organisational processes rather than organisations making adjustments to the older workers themselves.

These are however provisional figures and the full analysis will not be available until later in the year.  However it seems that these sorts of statistics will be worth closer investigation as the age profile of many workplaces changes over the coming years.

Youth employment, overqualification and ‘overeducation’

This article on the EurActiv website offers a headline which (playfully?) defines ‘overeducation’ as ‘when fish and chips are served by historians’. It cites a new research project by STYLE, the Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe, which reports that in some EU countries, up to one-third of young people aged 18-25 are overqualified for their jobs. Many of them are highly educated and multilingual, with university degrees, and are taking on low-paid jobs (serving fish and chips) to avoid unemployment.

The rates of overqualification vary considerably between EU countries. The highest level is in Ireland where 33% of young people are overqualified for their jobs, followed by Cyprus (31%) and Spain (30%). The lowest rates (below 10%) are in Slovenia and Slovakia.

What I think is interesting is the conflation of overqualification (which I assume is based on the extent to which these younger workers are doing jobs which do not require the level of qualification that they possess) and overeducation. The latter seems a much more problematic term particularly given uncertain labour markets, job precariarity, longer working lives, and freedom of movement within the EU. Who is it can say that anyone (of any age) is overeducated? Indeed, can you ever have too much education?

Age-targeted recruitment methods at Goldman Sachs under scrutiny

Actually, at the moment, it may only be us who is scrutinising Goldman Sach’s latest recruitment method. But we think it’s worth a look.

According to this article on the EyeWitness News website, the bank has released a series of quick-hit recruiting ads on Snapchat to become the first major Wall Street bank to turn to the instant-but-fleeting messaging app for potential recruits. What seems surprising is how this is unproblematically identified as ‘its latest push to broaden its allure among millennials’. It seems they were able to target this age group via Snapchat’s ‘Campus Story function’ which is a curated platform for user-generated contents such as pictures and videos at college campuses across the US. So only those who use Snapchat and whose phones indicate they are or have recently been in and around a campus, are able to post to and view the Campus Story. Ingenious – though in some institutions (like Birkbeck) this wouldn’t necessarily mean the students would all be so-called millennials.

Apparently since the recession, US graduates have been falling out of love with the idea of working for banks, rejecting the prospect of working in investment banking which is now seen as an ‘all-work-and-no-play career’. But does that justify age-targeted recruitment practices? Not sure the bank would get away with this in the UK.

UK statistics show rise of older workers

The Daily Mail yesterday reported on the rise in workers over 65 alongside debates at the 2015 TUC congress regarding concerns about increases in the state pension age.

Recent employment statistics showed 1 in 10 of the over-65s are in work with a 4.6 per cent increase in the number of over-65s in employment  in the last year.  The article reports that “Over the last year, the number of people in all age groups who were employed increased by 410,000, of whom an extraordinary 230,000 were over 50 and more than 50,000 were over 65

At the same time the 2015 TUC congress is discussing the issue of state pension age and the article reports many concerns about the pressure on older people to keep working.  The article reported the president of the National Association of Head Teachers, condemning the view that ‘if your heart beats for longer, you should graft for longer’ after a survey of teachers found that 2/3rds felt they would not be able to work beyond the age of 65.

Generational myths unpacked: the baby boomer @ReadyforAgeing

We were really interested to read this report recently: the myth of the baby boomer from the ready for ageing alliance.  This alliance comprises  many major UK charities who campaign for policy to address the changing demographic profile of the UK including Age UK, Anchor, Carers UK, The Centre for Policy on Ageing, Independent Age, The International Longevity Centre and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The report on the myth of the baby boomer seeks to show the diversity of this generational group while recognizing their is a lack of consensus about who is exactly a baby boomer.  The aim of the report is states as “to challenge the sometimes lazy assumptions being made about the group of our population described as ‘boomers”. 

From our own research we would add that there are many ‘lazy assumptions’ made about other generations too, but we have often found the stereotyping about the boomers and younger generations (often labelled as generation Y or millennials) to be particularly wide ranging.

The report particularly highlights that a reason for addressing these myths is that they lead policy makers to make decisions based on a false image of ageing.  They also highlight that “inequalities across all ages matter most” whether they be in health, wealth, education, housing or work.

A similar approach to the myths for other generations would be good to see too!

Age discrimination in the Czech Republic

I don’t recall us covering an age at work related story in the Czech Republic before but this article in the Prague Daily Monitor (an English language Czech news website) reports a survey on perceptions of age discrimination which has apparently overtaken gender discrimination in terms of being seen as a problem. 34% of Czechs say they have encountered age discrimination when looking for a job or ‘right at work’. I’m not sure exactly what the latter means, perhaps when seeking to enforce an employment right within an organization.

It seems that employer companies are particularly wary of a combination of older age and poor health status. The piece quotes Zuzana Lincova, director of as saying: “The companies are afraid not only of the worsening health condition of its old employees, but also of possible health limitations and complications among the people who had undergone a serious disease in the past“. I wonder if this is a particuar outcome of the political history of the country in the second half of the 20th century – could this account for lower levels of health amongst the population or at least to perceptions about it?

Awards for Youth Employment Initiative: what can we learn about age at work?

We’ve blogged before on the topic of competitions, rankings and awards for various age at work related matters (and queried what these might achieve).

The latest are the Personnel Today awards for 2015 for Youth Employment Initiative as covered in this article on the Personnel Today website which profiles those organizations which have been shortlisted. The finalists are Chelmsford City Council, Coventry City Council, First Great Western, Jaguar Land Rover, the Land Registry, Mouchel Consulting (an international infrastructure and business services group), Nottingham City Council and Zurich Insurance.

The most interesting aspect of these profiles is the description of the ‘challenges’ that each organization is said to have addressed through its particular initiative. These included (and watch out for the HR-speak):

  • noting high levels of youth unemployment (often specified for the 16-to 24-year-old age group)
  • observing how organizations complain that young people they did hire were not “work ready”
  • impact of retrenchment during the recession leading to a lack of entry-level ‘talent’ (I’m not sure that this relates to youth unemployment since this could be filled by workers of different ages)
  • needing to introduce a “digital generation” to the workplace where only 1% of the workforce is under 30 and one-third are close to retirement age (again, I don’t see how this is met by targeting only ‘youth’ employment, can’t those over 24 be ‘digital’?)
  • needing to find a high volume application process ‘that would address the challenges of recruiting Generation Y candidates’ (Gen Y – really? Do younger people apply for jobs in such a different way from other age groups?)
  • wanting to open up ‘long, fulfilling careers to young people’ to address ‘challenges in its talent pipeline’ (how about such careers for people of all ages?)
  • wanting to raise employment and attainment among the city’s young people, as well as change its own age profile as an employer
  • identifying an ageing workforce and wanting to develop a scheme to attract highly motivated and skilled applicants from the 16-24 age group for future long-term employment

I don’t doubt the good faith of those involved in these initiatives. But it’s quite fascinating to look at these ‘challenges’ from a perspective which doesn’t focus on any specific age group but considers issues about age at work more broadly. Note the potentiality ascribed to youth (but not older age), the reproduction of supposed generational differences, the notion that there might be an ideal ‘age profile’ for an organization and the equating of youth with ‘digital’.

We’re saluting HM The Queen (older worker)

What else could we possibly cover today other than the remarkable fact that the Queen as become the longest reigning monarch in British history, overtaking her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria, with a record-breaking 63 years.

Buckingham Palace have released a photo to mark this occasion which shows the Queen reading Government correspondence and working her way through these official letters in the audience room at Buckingham Palace.  Lots of press coverage including here in the Daily Mail and here in the Express, with both papers noting the choice of pose, namely one that shows the Queen (at age 89) still working, underlining the notion of ‘business as usual’.
We live in an age when the idea of working in the same job or for the same organization throughout our careers is highly unlikely for most of us. At the same time, all of us are likely to be working later in life – or at least drawing pensions at a later age – than our immediately preceding generations. So we contemplate the Queen’s admittedly rather unique example of continuity and later life working and salute her contribution and service to the country.

Big Bang Theory sued for age discrimination

Well, not exactly. It’s Warner Bros. Television that is actually named on the law suit.

According to this article on The Inquisitr website, the former Second Assistant Director on the Big Bang Theory sitcom, Christopher Klausen, who had been with the show since its start in 2007, has filed a claim for age discrimination. In it he alleges that he was systematically stripped of his duties until he was fired outright from the show in April 2015. The legal document claims:

As a Second Assistant Director, a major aspect of Mr. Klausen’s job duties involved interacting and working with the actors on a daily basis. This included serving as a liaison to the actors, making sure the actors are prepared for each scene, and putting the actors through wardrobe and makeup. Mr. Klausen noticed that the stars of the show, which are all considerably younger, began to ostracize him after he turned 50.

This wouldn’t be the first time such a claim has been made in the entertainment industry (particularly in the USA) and I’m sure it won’t the last. Indeed, the article quotes an entertainment lawyer Victoria Novak as saying that as Baby Boomers get older, she expects the frequency of such legal actions to increase. Her use of this specific generational label is interesting. The article quotes the show’s producer as saying that the reason duties were transferred to colleagues of Mr Klausen was because these colleagues related better to the actors due to them being younger. Which could be seen as implying that people only relate well to others of the same age or generational group.

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