Discrimination based on age is becoming an increasing problem for employees in the U.S. as the demographic of workers aged 55 and older grows. Hiscox’s 2019 Ageism in the Workplace Study lays out the prominence of ageism, outlines its effects, and suggests possible solutions to create diverse, intergenerational workplaces with varied experience levels and points of view.
By 2024, the study begins, workers aged 55 and older will represent 25% of the country’s workforce. The study, which surveyed 400 full-time workers across the country, found that 67% of surveyed workers aged 40-65 plan to continue to work after they turn 66. It also found 44% of respondents experienced or knew someone who experienced ageist discrimination in the workplace. One in five reported experiencing it themselves.
The study also found that though discrimination based on age is a widespread issue, it is vastly underreported. Forty percent of those who reported experiencing ageism in the workplace reported it. Of the majority who did not report the incidents, 54% did not complain for fear of creating a hostile work environment, and 24% did not know how to file a complaint. Similarly, though 37% of respondents reported witnessing ageism, 51% did not report it. Sixty-two percent of witnesses did not report for fear of retaliation from their employers. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids discrimination and harassment on the basis of age.
Though men experience ageism at slightly higher rates than women, older women face the barriers of both sexism and ageism, the study reports.
The top five myths the study outlines that affect older workers include
- That older workers are resistant to change, like learning new skills
- That older workers don’t like or don’t understand technology
- That older workers are too highly compensated to retain
- That older workers are complacent or unmotivated
- That older workers are difficult to manage
Eighty percent of those who reported experiencing age discrimination said they believed their career trajectories had been impacted due to the prejudice. Fifty-nine percent said they believed they would not get a new job because of age, which is not unfounded. Older workers typically endure the longest period of unemployment compared to other age groups and
will likely take a significant pay cut if they become re-employed.
Sixty-two percent of respondents reported not undergoing any form of age discrimination training in the past year.
The study laid out possible solutions to workplace ageism. It recommended prevention through education, detection through surveys and observances and mitigation through swift responses to complaints.
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