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Is 50+ definition for older workers a coincidence? Does it help or hinder?

by on July 14, 2014

Today the UK appointed a new Older Workers Champion, Ros Altmann, in a move strongly seen as a positive one in the fight against (old) ageism in the workplace. (See for example this coverage in the daily mail).  In the enthusiasm the definition of 50+ as the boundary for ‘Older Workers’ seems to have been overlooked.  But we would suggest this needs more scrutiny.

Not least we would ask if it is pure coincidence that Saga markets to 50+ when the new UK government’s ‘Business Champion for Older Workers’ uses the same 50+ definition and is a former Saga boss?

Now regular readers will know that we often highlight the issues of arbitrary boundaries for older and younger definitions (and whatever is in between).  Certainly recent discussions with academic colleagues would suggest that to treat the “50+” group as a meaningful category called ‘older workers’ is to hide as much variation as it might reveal.  Certainly the official status of the categorisation which has been quite variably constructed in the past, might pose potential problems and risk invitation to stereotype.  Somewhat ironically I find the Telegraph quoting the new champion as saying “Too many people write themselves off when they are still young” – the irony being that they are now not “young” but officially designated as  “older workers” once they reach the age of 50.  Sadly we at ageatwork think this very act of defining older workers as 50+ might actually increase ageist attitudes to those in this group.

Watching coverage on BBC breakfast and reading the news the main focus seems to be on not retiring and/or returning to work – and the agenda here is not all together clear.  However it is early days and Ageatwork will watch the developing debates with interest.

Report on our visit to the Organizational Discourse Conference will follow tomorrow!

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