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A mini round-up on the latest on age discrimination at work

by on March 21, 2017

I noticed a lot of items in our alerts about age discrimination over the last week. Here’s a handy round-up of them.

The Telegraph reported the findings of a study by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University. It was led by Dr Nick Drydakis, an economist, and was commissioned by the official magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The researchers carried out an experiment in which they used a series of carefully constructed CVs in respect of applicants aged 28 and 50 who had the same level of qualification and otherwise almost identical skills and interests. The older applicants’ Cvs showed more experience. Over a period of two years, they used these to apply for more than 1,800 jobs. The younger candidates were 4.2 times more likely to be offered an interview than the older applicants. There was also a gender effect: younger men were 3.6 times more likely to get an interview than their older rivals while among women the gap was 5.3 times.

A similar style of study is also reported in the Business Insider this time conducted in the USA. The academic who ran the study is Patrick Button, Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. The research team (also economists) created about 40,000 fictitious applications and submitted them online for 13,000 lower-skilled jobs as sales people, administrative assistants, security guards and janitors. These jobs were selected because they are “common jobs that older workers actually get hired in”, the so-called “bridge jobs” that appeal to older workers as they near the end of their working life but still want and need to stay in paid work. The results apparently showed evidence that women experience age discrimination in hiring, and that the inequity intensifies with age.

The Actuary reports a survey commissioned by SunLife in which almost 40% of people aged 50 and over report having experienced age discrimination, with 62% of those believing they have lost out on a job because of it. The survey asked abut experiences across different aspects of life: so while the workplace was found to be the most likely scene of such discrimination, people also reported age discrimination in shops, while driving, in bars and restaurants, and on public transport.

Clearly legislation against age discrimination (while an essential step) does not on its own solve the issue and lived experience of ageism at work. It’s interesting how these studies and surveys were generated by economists and financial institutions (rather than, for example, work psychologists). Does this indicate a move towards the development of the ‘business case’ argument against age discrimination (as opposed to a rights-based equality discourse)? These aren’t of course mutually exclusive.

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