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Ageism impacts the growth of the UK Economy

Ageism Rife in UK Workplaces and Mature Workers will fill the `Skills Gap`, so let them!

Ageism impacts the growth of the UK Economy

Age discrimination is widespread in the UK/globally and many workers hold unrealistic perceptions about their own career prospects, according to research by the Chartered Management Institute and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

A survey of 2682 managers and personnel professionals found that `60%` felt they have been personally disadvantaged at work because of their age and nearly a quarter of those surveyed admitted that age has an impact on their own recruitment decisions.

The research also revealed that almost half had suffered age discrimination through job applications while 39% believed their chances of promotion were hindered by age discrimination. This claim is backed up by individual perceptions of age where over half (63%) of respondents believed that workers between the ages of 30-39 years old had the best promotion prospects, with only 2% citing 50 year-olds or above. Why cast aside skills and experience when the rest of the world encourage people not to retire!

A majority, (80%) reported that they are hanging on to the expectation that they will personally retire by the age of 65, despite believing that the age of retirement for the average person in 10 years' time will be 66 or older. In the USA, they are calling back the retired skilled and experienced people to return to work has the country` needs` them!

Dianah Worman, Diversity Adviser at the CIPD said: "Our research shows that most managers expect everyone to be retiring later within 10 years - except themselves. There is a growing acceptance that the average worker is going to stay at work beyond 65. But no-one seems to think it applies to them." Senior people are fit and health plus very reliable!

Two-thirds of respondents said they anticipated working part time towards the end of their working life and a quarter claimed that the ability to work reduced hours would be a key factor influencing their retirement. However, the CIPD said that only a third of organisations offer part-time working to older employees, while only a quarter offer career advice to older workers. The rest of the world encourage people to continue to work has the skilled, experienced and fit are needed!

Petra Cook, Head of Public Affairs at the Chartered Management Institute said: "Looking at the changing demographics, approximately 80% of the workforce is already in employment. As such, organisations will need to focus on up-skilling and re- skilling their current workforce. This is reflected by the finding that the need to retain skills is the key driver of retirement policy. Again, senior people are happy to retrain if given the opportunity due to their flexibility! The rest of the world respect skilled and experienced people to train new people when they come on board.

"The days of a single, linear career are over and employees must take some responsibility for creating new opportunities and challenges in their later working lives," she added. "But, in order for this to happen, organisations will have to adapt to ensure that older workers are treated as an `asset` and offered flexibility."

Age Prejudice is most common form of discrimination

Most people have reported suffering age discrimination than any other form of discrimination, according to the first national survey of age-related prejudice.

Research carried out by the University of Kent for Age Concern found that 29% of respondents were discriminated against because of their age.

Interviews were conducted with 1,843 people over 16. From the age of 55, people were nearly twice as likely to have experienced age discrimination than any other form of discrimination. Nearly one-third of respondents said there was more prejudice against old people than five years ago and that they expected it to get worse.

Change your age policies or pay

In October 2006 a series of employment law changes came into effect which will mean employers will no longer be able to recruit, train, promote or retire people on the basis of age unless it can be objectively justified.

Research has shown that people over 50 are placed as the third most disadvantaged group in the workplace after those with learning difficulties and those with physical disabilities.

Preparation for the new ageism legislation in 2006 is essential. Attitudes and mind sets of companies and individuals have to be changed to provide them with the workforce of the future. The rest of the world respect age, has they do skills and experience, so why do the UK have the opposite attitude?

With an ageing but skilled and experienced population in the UK, discriminating against workers on the grounds of age means employers may be missing out on the talents of the one million economically inactive older people who could contribute an additional £30 billion to the annual economic output. So why are UK companies reluctant to encourage people who are skilled and experienced to continue to contribute to the economy?

By 2011, it is predicated that more than 45% of the UK workforce will be over 45, and only 17% will be under 24. Many firms, especially retailers such as Asda, B&Q, BT have adapted hiring policies designed to attract older workers. Age discrimination currently costs the economy £16 billion a year by reducing the size of the labour market.

In 2006, when the new law came in, companies have had to be very careful with ageism. In contrast to race or sex discrimination cases, older workers often claim they will not get another job and seek compensation for ten or even 20 years lost of earnings. Yes, they will win their case!

Also, the impact on the future depends on the present workforce, just look at the debt crisis at present which continues to escalate. The scale of the debt crisis among the young, poor and vulnerable became apparent today as it emerged that the number of people declaring themselves insolvent has reached record levels. Also, business failures grew to their highest level since records began. The retail sector was worst hit.

Most skilled and experienced senior people are very prudent, with no debt and are `very fit` and willing to continue working; they are an asset!

The UK needs to wake up to their skilled, experienced and fit senior workforce who will be needed to grow the economy. The rest of the world have work forces of `all` ages who work side by side for the benefit of `all`! The UK should `embrace` a work force that includes `all` ages.

Mature Workers will fill the `Skills Gap`, so let them!

By keeping mature staff and attracting others from retirement is a better way of solving our skills shortage than transporting in migrants.

Top executives in Europe, America and Asia have admitted for the first time that older (mature) workers are the key to fixing the skills gap globally.

Why do not these top executives persuade employees to stay on beyond retirement or to recruit other skilled and experienced people?

We are reaching a tipping point and we are seeing a fundamental movement in thinking across business. There is such an enormous white-collar and professional skills shortage that attitudes are having to change now, rapidly. Businesses are realising that they have to hold on to older (mature) skilled and experienced workers.

Due to the number of young adults drops in the West and lifespan increase, the limitations of today's strategy of importing foreign workers are showing. Persuading the older (mature) workers to stay on and tempting others back from retirement is now imperative. We need all businesses to see the `light` otherwise costs of employment will rise rapidly.

It is one year now after the introduction of laws `banning` discrimination on the grounds of age, this prejudice is poised to overtake sex discrimination as the greatest workplace grievance. There is probably about a fifth of UK workers feel they had been discriminated against on the grounds of age. At this present rate it will increase rapidly due to the increase in foreign workers being transported to the UK in droves!

Research from the Employers Forum on Age suggested that ageism remained deep-rooted in the workplace. Six out of ten people were said to have witnessed ageism at work in the previous 12 months. The Employers Forum on Age has said that 200 claims a month were now being lodged with the Tribunals Service and increasing rapidly.

Therefore, is business torn between realising that older (mature) workers are the answer and an emotional rejection of the inevitable? What do recruitment and HR executives think? Well, I believe that the prospect of legions of older (mature) workers fills them with horror! Why, because of income streams that will slow down, as older (mature) workers do no move from job to job. Older (mature) staff is more loyal and reliable than younger workers (despite all the worries about failing health, older employees take less sick leave than younger ones and most cases older (mature) people are fitter and have a positive attitude to life.

Some companies believe they are already ahead of the curve on the age issue. They have turned to retired staff to meet customer demand. Customers seem to find mature staff particularly reassuring. Look at many of these companies and for example `We have more than a dozen retired technicians who still have the skills and attitudes we want and of course a lot of experience and who still want to work.

UK schools and hospitals are already showing the strain of catering for an influx of younger workers from Eastern Europe. There is an issue with the language and illnesses that our hospitals cannot cater for!

The pioneering business is now in the retention and recruitment of older (mature) workers. Many companies have risen the retirement from 60 to 70 and some cases to 75.

Changing demographics means there is a clear business case for change. Customers are more satisfied with the services they receive from older (mature) staff; older workers stayed longer and recruiting and retaining older workers met the company's fairness and diversity policies. Also, people are working on because they want to and not just because they need the money.

However, the reality is that there are only a few businesses going all out to attract older people. It is time the majority woke up to the pending crisis. In fact, the recruitment of older (mature) workers is now so critical that it merits the introduction of positive discrimination. There is so much prejudice that I would argue for positive discrimination - for example, giving older workers more rights on part-time working. It has to be understood that these days older workers may also be caring for even older relatives has there are no care homes to take them on board.

Positive discrimination is controversial, but we have to consider the major talent shortage facing us over the next 20 years plus. Time, is not on our side, so we all need to take action on the older (mature) workers and also train the few younger people into jobs that are needed for us all to survive.

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Ageism and growth in the UK Economy... ENDS

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