Age-old problem of discrimination in the workplace to become worse, say experts

Age-old problem of discrimination in the workplace to become worse, say experts

OLDER employees who fail to make executive grade by the time they reach 50 face nearly 20 years of workplace discrimination, charities have warned.

Research by charity Age Scotland suggests that, with the state pension age set to rise from 65 to 67 by 2028, discrimination would impact on a growing proportion of people in their mid to late-60s unable to draw their state pension or any linked private or occupational savings.

According to a poll for The Herald by BMG Research, just 14 per cent of those aged over 65 in Scotland say there is adequate support and opportunities for those who want to re-train and learn new skills compared to some 43 per cent of those aged 16 to 34.

Derek Young, Age Scotland’s senior policy officer, called for a change in mindset from employers to view older workers as an asset rather than a liability.

And he also highlighted the need for a wider range of training opportunities for older workers.

He said some firms tended to view older workers as “less reliable because of health issues or more expensive in terms of salaries”.

Mr Young added: “There are also concerns that the suitability of older people for a particular role may not be as well recognised as younger candidates if recruiters are younger and don’t recognise historic qualifications.

“Retraining for older jobseekers tends to focus on IT skills and rudimentary support for job-seeking and there are clearly sections of the economy where this will be of comparatively limited value.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive officer of Scottish Care, said recognition of experience was just as important as formal qualifications.

He said: “While formal courses will play a part we also need to validate and value life-learning and be less obsessed with academic and accredited qualifications.”

While there are concerns about the opportunities for older people to retrain in more advanced settings, Universities Scotland said post-graduate options were available.

However, a spokeswoman said greater awareness of the funding options now available through loans was vital. She said: “Having the opportunity to re-skill or up-skill at any point in your career is really important to our economy so it is important we put the framework in place to support people.

“Short, postgraduate courses are a great way for people to get depth of knowledge in a new area relatively quickly and the change to making loans available is good news.”

Susan Stewart, director of the Open University in Scotland, said the notion of lifelong learning was as important as ever with an ageing population.

The Open University is already providing significant opportunities with 15 per cent of students aged 50 or over and more than one-fifth of these without traditional university entrance qualifications.

Ms Stewart said: “Education opens up opportunities regardless of how old we are and we need to make sure university is accessible to people of any age, not just young people straight out of school.

“Our globalised economy changes very quickly and we see different types of jobs being created and also disappearing at a remarkable speed.

“The only way to prepare as a society for that kind of change is to make sure it’s as easy as possible to learn new things and that means giving learners choice about how and when they study.”

Another Scottish institution at the forefront of learning for older people is Strathclyde University in Glasgow, which has a Centre for Lifelong Learning. Alix McDonald, head of the centre, said the university had people attending aged from 60 well into the 90s.

He said: “This shows that the community of retired or increasingly semi-retired people covers two or even three generations and, within this broad demographic, there is a host of different reasons for undertaking learning.

“We will soon be establishing an Age-Friendly Academy which is a university-wide initiative designed to capture the work being undertaken at Strathclyde relating to matters of ageing, part of which aims to develop provision for people aged over 50 who are wanting to retrain, learn new skills, change career or set up their own business.”

In Scotland, the number of workers exceeding state pension age has increased consistently over the past decade, particularly since the 2011 legislation to abolish the default retirement age.

The Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan states: “We are concerned some older people, women in particular, may feel they have to work because of low pension incomes or that they end up working in lower-skilled jobs to balance work and caring responsibilities.

“We will therefore ensure that older workers’ needs are considered in the development of new employment services, some of which will be devolved to Scotland from April 2017.

Original Source – Andrew Denholm from The Herald Scotland –

adminAge-old problem of discrimination in the workplace to become worse, say experts