(Guest post regarding the age groups which suffer most from ageism).
When we think of ageism, often the seemingly harmless jokes about the diminishing faculties of the elderly or the recklessness of inexperienced youth are what come to mind. With the rising tension of an uncertain unemployment climate, ageism is becoming increasingly noticeable in the workplace. The once-humorous anecdotes referring to the capabilities of older workers and entry-level college graduates don’t feel so funny anymore, as more people struggle to find employment opportunities.
AARP released a survey reporting one-third of Massachusetts residents felt as though they had experienced age discrimination in the workplace directly, or it had happened to someone close to them. This is especially concerning as older people don’t have as much time to save up more money for retirement if they lose their jobs or dip in to their savings accounts. Even with the decline in unemployment rates, people in the workforce over the age of 55 make up 3.9 percent of those without jobs. Ageism continues to be a difficult obstacle to overcome for those who want or need to work later in life.
Younger workers are also feeling as though their age is holding them back from their careers. While many members of senior management will acknowledge age discrimination toward older workers, members of the youth workforce are finding it difficult to land higher paying, upper-level positions, even when they are qualified. Workers between the ages of 24 and 34 make up a massive 6.3 percent of those who are unemployed. Ageism in the workplace is causing young workers to compete with those who are older and more experienced.
Ageism isn’t only present when the unemployed apply for positions. Workers feel the pressures of age discrimination at places that have employed them for some time. In a 2002 survey released by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, only 44 percent of employees between the ages of 18 and 24 felt as though they were treated fairly on site. Only 64 percent of workers between the ages of 45 and 55 felt they received fair treatment.
Truthfully, ageism is being felt by people of all ages in the fight to find and keep employment. While it seems that workers in the younger end of the age bracket would fall into a higher jobless rate, it does take longer – approximately 60 weeks on average – for workers 45 and older to find another job after losing their previous position. Jacquelyn James of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College stated that ageism continues to be tolerated due to society’s acceptance of negative, age-related comments. James noted that as long as we still buy the birthday cards that mock different age groups, and as long as society associates aging with “going downhill,” it will be a common assumption that talent and faculties in the workplace are also declining as an employee ages.
Sadly, it would appear that companies only worry about ageism within their walls when there is a chance they face a lawsuit. As for workers, it is important to keep trying to find jobs. Show that you are eager to stay engaged and work your way up the ladder, no matter your age.
Many people would argue that older workers are feeling the brunt of the suffering from the unemployment crisis, while others would stand on the side of the youth. The fact is: in an uncertain economic climate, no age group is safe from the pain and frustration of ageism. The trick is to find companies and businesses that will hire you for what you excel at, not for how long you have excelled.
About the author
This article was composed by Trevor Witherspoon, a freelance writer who devotes his time to legal topics such as Personal Bankruptcy, Labor Issues, Workplace Discrimination, Financial Regulation and others as well.