Bias in recruitment: over-50s three times more likely to be long-term unemployed

Centre for Ageing Better warns that attitudes towards the over-50s risk them being shut out of employment

Employers are failing to identify and tackle age bias in recruitment processes despite not viewing ageism as a problem in their organisation.

In a new report from The Centre for Ageing Better, the most common response from employers regarding older workers was that they ‘have poor IT skills’ or look ‘worn-out.

The charity estimated more than 400,000 over-50s could be made redundant when the furlough scheme ends.

Previous research from the charity found that a third of people aged over 50 believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age, and two-fifths see their age as a disadvantage when applying for a job. 

Unemployment data from the Office for National Statistics analysed by digital community Rest Less, shows that three in 10 (30%) unemployed over-50s have been out of work for at least 12 months, compared to a fifth (20%) of unemployed under-50s respectively.

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, says: “This latest research shows employers are failing to identify and tackle age bias in recruitment processes. While younger people may – in general – hold an advantage in technical knowledge and ability, an over-emphasis on those capabilities risks alienating a large portion of the workforce who will play an increasingly important role in future economic success.” 

The advantages of a workforce that successfully blends youth with experience are hard to dispute. Mature colleagues have practised communicating ideas, working with people at different levels of an organisation, and troubleshooting issues.

The ‘maturity’ and lived experience brought by over-50s to an organisation remains invaluable, bringing a depth of thinking that provides balance to a younger workforce and makes for a powerful team.

Nowakowska adds: “Indeed, multiple studies have found that gender, ethnically and culturally diverse organisations perform better. A University of Zurich study, for example, found that an increase in age diversity can have substantial positive productivity effects, particularly in innovative and creative companies.

“Employers who invest in the wisdom brought to the workplace by maturity can foster the attributes that many contemporary business leaders say they value the most. From creativity and innovation to emotional intelligence and an ability to cope under pressure, investing in workplace maturity is always money well spent.”

Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder, Globalization Partners, says: “I’ve seen first-hand the powerful results that occur when people with different perspectives work together to create business solutions. It’s been proven repeatedly that companies with diverse employees in both inherent and acquired traits (gained from life and work experiences) are more likely to achieve market growth. 

“It’s a little harder for executives to find people outside of their network, but doing the hard work upfront has a multiplicative impact on the bottom line of the business.”
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