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The older worker dilemma

by on November 29, 2013

The Professional Pensions website, part of an industry which often comments on age / work related matters, conducted a poll to guage attitudes to the assertion that ‘older workers should have their hours cut to help the young’.

As reported here, just over half of participants agreed, saying that employers should be able to cut older employees’ hours to help recruit apprentices. About a third of participants said they shouldn’t.

The poll highlights the commonly held ‘lump of labour fallacy’ which presupposes that there is a fixed amount of work to be done. In the context of debates which pitch old against young in respect of entitlement to work, the rationale for removing older workers is that this will lead to more jobs being made available to younger workers.

The article reports that those who expressed this view in the poll qualified their responses by offering ways to alleviate the negative impact this would have on older workers. Interestingly, this included finding other ways for these people to ‘be active’ – very much a central tenet of the successful / productive ageing concepts. Others are reported as saying that such a proposal was “ageism by another name“.

Summing up the dilemma, one contributor said: “Society cannot have it both ways. The current message is expect to carry on working into your late sixties or early seventies as the state pension age moves out and yet older workers remain a target perceived either as an expensive resource or as a drag on recruitment.

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