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Age stereotypes in action? Assumptions about older workers’ ability to learn new skills

by on December 18, 2014

Today we’re continuing a theme touched on yesterday about age stereotypes and the extent to which so-called positive ones in relation to older workers can be damaging – and even whether such characteristics are valued by employers.

This item in The New Daily reports from  Australia on two manual labourers in their 60s who say they were fired because of their age and cannot find new jobs. The headline to the piece is ‘Loyalty worth zero: older workers face jobless future’ highlighting that the men had both worked for the same organization for over 20 years. The company makes plastic packaging. When a new plastic-making machine operated via a large computer screen was introduced, four younger employees were trained to use the screen, but these two older men (aged 60 and 63) were not. Five months later they were fired. Both men have lodged appeals against their dismissals with the Fair Work Commission.

Without wishing to pre-judge the legal outcome, the story as reported so far, could be seen to imply an assumption that older workers could not be trained to operate new technology and that their loyalty – through their years of service to the organization – was irrelevant. So comments like the ones we reported yesterday by the Pensions Minister really don’t help.


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