Ageism the new sexism in the workplace

Discriminatory behaviour towards older workers could replace sexual discrimination as one of the most critical workplace issues of the current generation, according research conducted by CQU Professional Doctorate candidate Brad Jorgensen.

The research, released this week and widely reported by national news organisations, focuses on the key implications of Australia's rapidly ageing population.

'The Ageing Population: Implications for the Australian Workforce' research paper was commissioned by recruitment and human resource consulting firm Hudson, as part of its 20:20 Australia Series, which examines key areas of the work environment to provide a "future flash" of how Australia's economic, cultural and social landscape might look in the year 2020 Jorgensen's research highlights the threat of ageism becoming the new sexism in the workplace, as the Australian population ages and economic pressures mean more people will have to work later in their lives.

The research also raises the fact that employers and society in general hold inaccurate perceptions about the capability of older workers. In fact, Jorgensen's research shows that young people tend to associate ageing with disability, dependency or irrelevancy".

The impact of age discrimination in the workplace is more than just a cultural or social issue with the research also highlighting the potential financial implications of a workforce blighted by ageism, through reduced teamwork and failed cross-organisational cooperation.

Negative attitudes towards older workers may prevent organisations fromharnessing the knowledge and skills that older workers have to offer, eventually constraining organisational success.

While the research points out that "a well implemented ageing strategy will improve morale, teamwork, cooperation and productivity across all levels of the organisation", it also warns against policy approaches that are not carefully framed to avoid stigmatisation of older workers.

The research paper also identifies the following success factors in addressing ageism:

  1. Backing from senior management;
  2. Financial backing from the organisation;
  3. Supportive human resource structures; and,
  4. The commitment and flexibility from the ageing workers.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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