Conference Agenda

RN01_10b: Age Discrimination
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Matthias Nowc, University of Duisburg-Essen
Location: UP.3.205
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road


To What Degree Is Ageism Actually Disableism?

Mariska van der Horst1, Sarah Vickerstaff2

1VU Amsterdam, Netherlands; 2University of Kent, United Kingdom

In many countries there is a call for older workers to extend their working lives. Policies to accomplish this include abolishing mandatory retirement age and increasing the state pension age. Ageism has been identified as a possible threat to this policy goal and it has been suggested that ageism needs to be tackled in order to extend the working lives of employees. However, ageism only recently became a popular topic of research and is not yet well understood. In this article we explore to what degree ageism is actually hidden disableism. We conclude that not all ageism is likely to be disableism, but a large part is, with the difference that it is not *actual* impairments, but *expected* impairments that is judged. However, even though we would still expect ageism to affect employment of older workers, without disableism we argue it is unlikely that ageism would be as detrimental to the employment of older workers as it is now. Therefore, it is important for researchers in the field of ageism to learn from knowledge acquired in the field of disableism and for the extending working lives agenda to be aware of disableism as well.

Age Discriminations In Belgium: Has Nothing Changed?

Nathalie Burnay

University of Namur, Belgium

An anti-discrimination law was adopted in Belgium on 25 February 2003. In this new context, protection against discrimination was extended to a set of criteria, including sexual orientation, age, religious or philosophical belief and disability. Despite this new legislation, indirect discrimination (Drury, 1993) continue to affect older workers.

In this presentation, we will analyse age discrimination among older workers in the Belgian labour market. Indeed, this presentation will shed light on discrimination related to, in particularly, recruitment process. Older workers have difficulty finding a job because of their age, even if age discrimination is strictly prohibited in Belgium. Age is never used explicitly to exclude the worker from employment, but real suspicions suggest that their exclusion from the recruitment process depends on their age.

This presentation will be based on a double sample, separated by twenty years.

Sample 1: In 1998, 28 semi-directed interviews of unemployed people (45-65 years old )

Sample 2: In 2018, 36 semi-directed interviews of temporary workers in agencies (45-67 years old).

The results show that age discrimination continues to exist, even if it is illegal. But the social interpretation of the failure has completely changed. In this way, in 1998, if an older worker was not able to find a new job, the social responsibility was collective and structural. In 2018, this failure is above all an individual responsibility. Moreover, the legitimation process has also changed from “you are too old” to “you are to expensive”.

The Economics of Labelling People: It's Time to Retire "The Elderly"

John Turner1, Gerard Hughes2, Michelle Maher3, Tianhong Chen4

1Pension Policy Center, Washington DC, USA; 2Trinity College Dublin, Ireland; 3Maynooth University, Ireland; 4Guangdong Institute of Public Adminstration, China

Age-related labels are often used in economics and in common discourse. They can have both positive and negative effects on the people to whom they apply. This paper examines the use of the term “elderly” in economics, other scientific literature, public policy and common discourse. The issue is not solely about terminology, it is also about attitudes toward older persons. While the term elderly was initially introduced as a replacement for the word old, life expectancy and health at older ages has greatly improved while the term has been static as to the age group to which it applies, and thus has become outdated. First, we argue that the term “elderly” is too poorly defined to be used in scientific writing. There is considerable variation currently in its meaning in terms of the age at which being elderly starts. Instead, a better option is to specify the age group being discussed. Second, we argue that the term “elderly” has negative connotations of inability to work and frailty. It reflects negative perceptions of some younger persons toward the older population. It is a term that many in the group to whom it is applied consider to be objectionable because of its negative connotations. The term applied to persons who are participating in the labor market may foster discrimination against those persons. Third, if the term is thought to refer to advanced older age, the common age cut-off of 65 currently is too young. A problem with many systems for naming the older population is that they are static, not having a mechanism for adjusting to improvements in life expectancy. A dynamic rule is needed.

Unfolding Career Trajectories: Dynamics of Ageism in Contemporary Labour Markets

Katri Keskinen

Tampere University, Finland

Keywords: Ageism, Career Trajectories, Age Norms, Decision-Making

Background: Pension systems and social security systems globally are facing a major change with ageing populations. Prolonging working careers has become a widely accepted solution to these challenges; however, many older workers withdraw from the labour force before reaching the set retirement age. This paper examines the unfolding career trajectories after redundancy in former postal workers aged 50-65.

Research questions: What are the dynamics of ageism and agency in the labour market decisions? How do age, ageist beliefs and practices influence career trajectories?

Methodology: This paper uses qualitative longitudinal data from 40 former Finnish postal workers who were followed for approximately two years after redundancy. The data was collected between 2015-2018, through two waves of face-to-face interviews, and phone interviews between the waves. Discourse analysis is employed to unravel the dynamics of ageism within social constructs from the experiences of redundancy and unemployment the participants shared over time.

Preliminary findings: The preliminary findings show that experiences of ageism can be deeply embedded in our age norms and practices. Current age restrictions and legislations consider age in simplistic chronological terms, without taking into account health disparities, which can cause problems to those with low socio-economic status.

Conclusions: Chronological age determines widely the choices people have after redundancy, namely access to retirement, re-education and unemployment services. In order to prolong working careers, these age constructs need to be addressed.