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Older workers: Should we be wary of the positive stereotype?

by on September 20, 2013

This article in a regional US news website is typical of some of the material we see regularly picked up by our data alerts; a perspective on the benefits of employing older workers. But it’s also a good example of how stereotypes are presented and discussed in these news items.

It starts with a declaration regarding the barriers in finding work: ‘Older people searching for jobs have long fought back stereotypes that they lack the speed, technology skills and dynamism of younger applicants…Hiring managers often still view older applicants as having lower job performance, higher absenteeism and accident rates, and less ability to solve problems and adapt to changes.

It then goes on to feature interviews with employers who have hired older workers, citing them as sources of evidence that these employees offer a range of positive attributes: ‘they don’t require much training or supervision, and end up paying for themselves with the quality of work…Fewer absences, fewer mistakes, a greater ability to solve problems and a willingness to put in more hours…loaded with knowledge’.

My question is: does this article, and others like it, actually reinforce the notion of stereotypes by seeking to replace negative ones with positive versions?

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