[Blog 13] Does Getting Older Hurt Your Career?

Ageism or age discrimination is a pertinent issue that comes with an ageing population like Singapore, as older workers struggle to stay relevant among the growing millennial workforce under today’s sluggish economic conditions. Figures show that of the 9,090 residents laid off in 2016, more than 70% were professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), of which almost two-thirds were aged 40 and above.

The notion of retirement is now changing as older workers describe that they face heavier financial obligations such as house mortgages, car loans and elderly parents to support. Unfortunately for them, many employers still cling to inaccurate stereotypes and negative assumptions about the skills and learning abilities of older employees—they are sometimes viewed as resistant to change, less innovative and less technically savvy. HR experts say that older-worker groups might lag behind as their skills may be outdated and hence, are costlier to employ as compared to their younger counterparts. However, the fact is that age may not necessarily be a reliable indicator when judging a worker’s potential productivity and employability. Moreover, companies today should be doing all they can to retain the decades of experience and maturity that this demographic hold.

Signs of ageism in the workplace

Age discrimination can be especially subtle or even hard to spot sometimes if you’re not on the receiving end. In some companies, for instance, training, promotions and development opportunities are often encouraged among younger employees, but not older ones, who then have a tendency to feel undervalued because of such reasons. It is also not uncommon to hear about older employees having their work criticized or being told their skills no longer match the job after hitting a long-term milestone at the company.

Anti-discrimination laws

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has addressed problems arising from ageism with the introduction and reinforcement of various policies to support the participation of older workers, as well as diversity in the workplace. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) widens the pool of potential candidates that employers can recruit from by promoting the employability of older workers and raising awareness of the value that older workers bring to the workplace. Under the Retirement and Re-employment Act, it is also unlawful for employers to dismiss employees who are below 62 years old on the basis of age alone.

The bottom line here is that legislation alone will not eradicate age discrimination in the workforce. While the government is trying to encourage workers to stay in the workforce longer to reduce dependency, this is not plausible if the stigma at hand and biased mindsets persist among employers. HR staff who are often on the front line play a huge role in assisting these affected workers find suitable employment. It is crucial to create an open and equitable workspace in order to meet the needs of mature age job seekers and combat ageism in the workplace. With effective HR advisory services, you can focus on fostering more positive attitudes and debunk generational stereotypes in your own workplace to promote inclusivity. Contact HRguru®to learn more about our services today!


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