When we think about discrimination, for sure in our mind will pop up cases related to gender, religion, and racial condition. Recently we were witness of such attitudes with cases like in the United States with the movement Black Live Matters, or one that affected many societies like the rates of wage discrimination between men and women in the same functions. Those are part of a history that sadly it repeats frequently.

Despite the fact that those discriminations forms persist, the visibility of them made that authorities and public opinion are permanently aware and take actions to fight against them. Although there are shortcomings, there are undoubted advances: the first is the recognition of the problem and then the willingness to solve and amend these actions. But there is a more silent form of discrimination, often ignored, but that inevitably will touch every one of us.  

Age discrimination, or ageism, is undoubtedly one of the discriminations that have received the least attention over the years. And it is precisely those years that will make each one of us go from youth to old age, inescapably regardless of sex, religion, or race. Old age undoubtedly does not discriminate, but it is the cause of silent but powerful discrimination that must be addressed promptly in all latitudes.

The problem takes a serious dimension with the data. The aging population figures in the world will exceed the youngest (under 5 years of age) for 49.77 million people more just in 2020, and the trend in the coming years will be the same, according to the website Our World in Data elaborated with United Nations projections. In Europe, the so-called old world, in 2019 the 20.3% of the current population belonged to people over 65 years of age, and the projection is the increase to 31.3% in 2100, according to Eurostat.

Adding to these figures, the importance to tackle the topic is supported with data such as the current life expectancies worldwide with an average of about 73 years; the average age of more than 30 years for a person; and the accountability that more than half of the world population is in the range of the working-age between 25 and 65 years.

Promote actions to achieve greater awareness of the value of the adult population of third and fourth age in public opinion, it turns necessary and urgent for the present time.

Starting from the ‘40s

“Age discrimination begins at age 40 for women and 45 for men”, is part of the statement that Lynda Gratton, professor at the London Business School, mentioned during the Longevity Forum in London in 2018. This analysis also complements what was mentioned by the Center for Aging Better (CfAB) in the United Kingdom, indicating that almost half of people over 50 consider that they will have difficulty to find a job just because of their age or will have fewer opportunities for training or promotion within the company.

Although there are some countries that have tried to take initiatives to promote greater diversification in the labor market with greater inclusion of people over 40 years, the results are still not encouraging since age discrimination remains a silent but vivid reality and many prejudices still contribute to its persistence.

One of the greatest challenges for real inclusion in the labor market is to demystify that a “senior worker” represents a higher cost, without observing that it represents an investment for the company since diversity and experience are values ​​that can contribute to the same growth of the firm. This is pointed out by a publication in Harvard Business Review in September 2019, where it is stated that diversity is the key to increasing innovation and company results since the cognitive diversity of generations working together will maximize the result for the company.

But also figures such as retention and turnover rate in a company, together, with the performance and commitment of workers with work and human experience, are beneficial in the medium and long term for the company and its stakeholders.

Benefit for the nations

The (re) inclusion of people over 40 in the labor market benefits also the countries and their economies, since every day the rate of aging in societies accelerates, longevity is extended and the benefits of pension funds are shortened.

Changing the mindset against age discrimination, especially to people between 40 and 65 years of age requires active participation and tripartite collaboration within government organizations, companies, and citizens. It implies transforming the image that becomes older is a synonym of rusty, expensive, or not very innovative.

The wisdom that years give, as well the valuable soft skills and communication are achieved through the experiences that forge the character of a person, regardless of age, but that only the pass of time teaches. 

The current pandemic that impacted the way of learning and a closer approach to digital media for all generations, shown us also that that technology is not a barrier, but an opportunity to the older generations that each day embraces those changes with a high spirit.

Have barriers restricting the entry to the labor market to workers of 40s and up, is a big loss to the economic and social contribution that they can give for at least 20 more years to our societies.

Valuing the contribution of experience, and understanding that the pass of time will be inevitable to all of us is the first step to change a collective mindset where overvalued youth should be measured by attitude and not by years.