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Is discrimination and short-sightedness at the root of a growing army of unemployed over 50’s?


training for over 50s imageArticle by Dr Lynda Shaw

Discrimination and short-sightedness is at the root of a growing army of unemployed over 50’s at a time when the mature workforce need more income.

We all know that experience comes with age, but in business, experience is often put to one side because of implied associated higher costs.  It is a rather short sighted business model. The problem is compounded by the fact that we are living longer, therefore we need to work longer to pay for our longevity.  If we are not being allowed to work as long as we want and are able, there will be serious financial implications globally.  The numbers simply don’t stack up. Many over 50s are now being forced to set up their own businesses having been pushed out of the workforce.  For many this ends up working well, but for others this means a pattern of home start-up businesses that can lead to isolation with little monetary gain.

What businesses are ignoring is the added value of years of commercial and personal experience that actually drives good business and ultimately turnover.  Older workers have as many rights as their younger colleagues so why are they being asked to stand aside? It smacks of discrimination. What we actually need is a healthy mix of jobs for all age groups that will enhance business performance and economic growth.

A recent survey I conducted saw that 77% of over 45s in work worry about redundancy and 58% of men between 55-64 years old interviewed, work predominantly because they need the money, rather than for example because they love their job.

Too little training for the over 50s

There is also a common misconception about staff training. Whilst training is important for the young employees starting in the company, employers could also consider training the older staff. Some companies provide little to no training for over 50s causing them to feel neglected, demotivated and out of touch. This is madness as in general the older generation are more loyal to their company than younger generations who are happy to move from one job to another yet training is generally included as part of their job.  50s plus tend to stay in the job for longer so surely they would be a good investment to train?

I herald the benefits of a diverse workforce and how employers should utilise their older staff to share experiences with younger staff and vice versa. “Different age groups within work have different attitudes towards work.  20 year olds are under high pressure to secure jobs to pay student loans and gain experience and knowledge. Over 50s tend to have less responsibilities looking after children and families but are increasingly aware of the financial pressures of the future.”

Ultimately rather than discriminate, employers should rethink and see the different value older and younger employees bring to the table.  We need good training for all generations and focus on building good staff morale.  Growth and profitability will naturally follow.

What are your thoughts on this – have you personally been affected?

Dr Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw has lectured in Psychology and Neuroscience at Brunel University and conducted research on brain function and impairment, specialising in consciousness, emotion and the effects of ageing

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