While the U.S. continues to ignore the on-going epidemic of age discrimination here, a new report in the United Kingdom posits that ageism and sexism combine to effectively end women’s careers at the age of 45.
Men continue to progress until around age 55, when they are written off by employers as being “past it.”
These are some of the results of a major report by economist Ros Altmann, who was appointed last year by the United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions Minister to serve as the U.K.’s Business Champion for Older Workers.
Altmann told the British Daily Mail and Independent newspapers that senior human resource professionals report that women’s career progression in most companies stops around the age of 45. She said that nearly half the growth in female employment since the recession has been in low-paid, part-time work, mainly clerical, caring and cleaning work. Here are some other findings:
- Older workers with young bosses tend to face the worst age discrimination.
- Employers wrongly assume that older workers are less familiar with computer technology and are unable to learn.
- Women face an extra layer of discrimination because employers want young, female staff who “look a certain way.”
Altmann recommends the government threaten job recruitment firms with penalties unless they do more to prevent age discrimination. She said all job advertisements should clearly state the application is open to everyone regardless of age. She also recommends a national “confidence” campaign for discouraged older workers and proposed that companies offer “mature” apprentice programs.
The U.S. Slumbers on …
The U.K. initiative stands in sharp contrast to the complete lack of action in the United States to combat blatant and epidemic age discrimination in the workplace.
Indeed, President Barack Obama made things incrementally worse when he signed an executive order in 2010 establishing the Pathways “Recent Graduates” program that allows the federal government to discriminate in hiring against older workers. Why should private sector employers comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act if the federal government won’t? And the Obama administration is currently sponsoring a White House Conference on Aging, which has totally ignored pleas to address the problem of age discrimination.
Meanwhile, many job applicants must fill out on-line applications which require disclosure of age-related information that allows companies to screen out older workers.
In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show there is far less protection from age discrimination than other types of illegal discrimination in the United States because the ADEA was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Altmann notes that by 2022, there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the UK but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and the state pension age. “If the over-50s continue to leave the workforce in line with previous patterns, we would suffer serious labour and skills shortages which could not be filled by immigration alone,” she said.