In most countries, the fastest growing segment of the job market is also the most overlooked - workers over the age of 55.
The fact that they’re overlooked probably isn’t too surprising. Not when you consider that older workers are often thought to be resistant to change, slow to learn and more costly.
But by looking past these stereotypes you can find many qualified workers that would benefit your company. Talented people that your competitors may not even be considering.
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Remarkably, age discrimination may be one of the few things we all experience.
As you’ll read in the articles below, studies have found that two-thirds of people aged 45 to 74 have experienced age-related discrimination. And over two-thirds of companies consider older age a competitive disadvantage.
From 45. And likely even earlier for women.
But by 2025 it’s estimated 1 in 4 workers in the US and the UK will be over the age of 55. And that workers over the age of 55 is the fastest growing group in almost every country.
This is a growing problem - and opportunity.
Because by challenging stereotypes about what a person can and can’t do at a certain age, we can not only do the right thing, by judging each person on their merit, we can also find so many more talented people.
Despite the many articles about the differences between generations, there is very little evidence these differences exist - particularly in the workplace.
But the belief in those differences is very real - as are the consequences for the people they target.
For example, extensive research has found there are five main stereotypes of older workers:
However, a review of 98 studies found that older people were no less innovative or creative than their younger colleagues.
Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to older workers. A review of ageism across the EU found younger adults were also targets of age discrimination (although to a lesser degree). In particular, they were the target of negative attitudes and were overlooked for promotion.
It’s hard to believe, but many women’s careers peak at 40 and men’s at 45. After these ages, they’re no longer considered for promotion or training in the companies they work for. And are more likely to be the target of redundancy.
Yet they’re also representative of large parts of many companies’ customer base. Customers they understand and can empathise with.
Recognising this, Aviva has seen a significant increase to new business by championing older workers in their life insurance division.
Over two-thirds of companies consider older age a competitive disadvantage.
If you are older, you’re likely to be considered less capable, less able to adapt, or less willing to learn something new than your younger peers.
But these views ignore the numerous benefits older workers can provide. Because knowledge and experience - the main predictors of job performance - keep increasing beyond the age of 80.
Also, one of the best ways to improve team performance is to increase cognitive diversity. Which is significantly more likely if you can get people of different ages, and experiences, working together.
This article looks at recent findings of age bias in hiring - and the wave of litigation that has followed. All the specific cases are for older workers as there are no age discrimination laws for workers below the age of 40 in the US.
The forms of bias are varied. From using Facebook and LinkedIn ad targeting to exclude middle-aged and older Americans - to explicitly hiring younger employees.
But the results of the bias are clear. Statistically, older workers have a harder time finding a job. On average, a 54 year-old job hunter will be unemployed for nearly a year. And it’s toughest for women, with age discrimination starting in their 40s.
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