Monday, 3 March 2014

Survey finds ageism still a barrier to employment

Tori Smith
ID-100196298In this enlightened age of equality and fairness we like to think as we get older we’ll be afforded equal treatment when it comes to finding work. Not so, according to a recent survey conducted by TotalJobs. The survey found a staggering 83% of jobseekers over the age of 60 believed they’d been rejected for a job simply on the grounds of age.
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that out of 1400 respondents 80% of those over 50 had deliberately witheld their date of birth from their CV. Director of TotalJobs, John Salt, found the results of the survey to be ‘alarming’, especially as age discrimination has been illegal since 2006.
Whilst unemployment figures as a whole are a political hot potato the emphasis for reducing unemployment is placed largely on youth unemployment. However, the survey revealed those over 60 faced the biggest hurdles when finding a job. With the majority of government schemes created to support young people around 70% of older job-seekers state the government focusses too much on the young. Of those unemployed for 6 months or more jobseekers that are 60+ are almost twice as likely to be unemployed when compared to 25-34 year olds.
A more worrying trend, however, is the fact that within this group of unemployed over 60s 20% are senior professionals who have been job hunting for at least 2 years. As such the wealth of skills and personal qualities which led them to positions of seniority lie dormant – depriving the UK workplace of a rich seam of knowledge and experience. Of these senior job-seekers 46% of over 50s stated they had applied for more than 50 jobs in the last 6 months. Sadly, two-thirds of these applicants also stated they received fewer than 5 responses despite matching the job description.
But it’s not all bad news. Some employers are actively turning ageism its head by recognising the importance of mature employees and the benefits older workers can bring to the workplace. Fast food chain MacDonald’s boasts higher productivity from outlets employing over 60s alongside younger staff. Employers including Asda, British Gas, Marks & Spencer and JD Wetherspoon actively recruit mature staff preferring their experience and reliability over younger, but cheaper, employees.
According to a government poll in August 2013 the number of people aged 50-64 in employment has increased by 2 million over the last fifteen years. The pensions minister said “employers who ignore the talent pool on offer amongst the over 50s are likely to suffer shortages and lose a key competitive edge.”

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