Employers discriminate against older adults, Canadians tell pollster

Posted on August 8, 2012 in Debates

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VancouverSun.com – news – Part One of a Three Part Series
22 July 2012.   Robert Hiltz, Postmedia News

OTTAWA — Nearly three-quarters of Canadians believe workplaces are shunning older job applicants based solely on their age, a worrisome finding given labour force trends in Canada.

In a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid exclusively for Postmedia News, 74 per cent of those asked either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that employers discriminate against older people looking for jobs. The perception is higher among Canadians over the age of 35, but even a majority of those aged 18 to 34 think older workers are subject to ageist attitudes.

Fully one-third of poll respondents said they themselves have been a victim of age discrimination, either in the workplace or when being interviewed for a job. But here, the most aggrieved group was younger workers. Forty-one per cent of people between ages 18 and 34 said they had been victims of prejudice because of their tender years, while just 38 per cent of the over-55 group felt that way.

The apparent contradiction could have several explanations, said Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Reid.

For one thing, younger people participate in more interviews as they enter the workforce and therefore are more likely to have been turned down for a job, perhaps perceiving that their age played a role.

As well, Simpson suggested, older workers are more likely to be doing the hiring. Generally, groups tend to favour hiring those in their own age bracket.

Respondents to the poll also were asked, in a hypothetical scenario, who they would be most likely to hire: someone 18 to 24; 25 to 34; 35 to 44; 45 to 54; 55 to 64; or 65 and older. The question stated that the hypothetical applicants were without any specific experience in the job but all had the same level of general qualifications.

Respondents were most likely to pick someone between the ages of 25 and 34 (37 per cent); and between 35 and 44 (25 per cent). People in their late-40s and early-50s were the next most preferred (19 per cent).

Only nine per cent said they would hire someone aged 18 to 24, or aged 55 to 64. And only three per cent said they would hire someone over the age of 65.

Even older Canadians favoured the young in this poll; the most popular age group that respondents over 55 said they would personally hire was those aged 25 to 34.

The overall trend favouring youth over age worries some experts, because the most recent population data suggest Canada faces a major labour force shortage in the years ahead. One solution to this is hiring, and retaining, older workers — but this means potential employers may have to shed their antipathy toward hiring seniors.

Pollsters asked a second variant of the “hiring” question, this time specifying that as the hypothetical worker in the question got older, he or she also had more experience. Even so, there was little difference in poll responses from the first answer. People still preferred relatively younger workers, this time favouring the age groups 25 to 34, and 35 to 44, (31 per cent preferred each of these two groups). Support for hiring the other age groups was virtually unchanged from the first question.

“It looks like some experience is great, but it really doesn’t matter if you’ve had 10 years or 30 years of experience — once you’ve got a good amount, you don’t need tonnes of it” to be among the favoured age group for hiring, said Simpson.

The online poll was conducted between July 10 and 13 and surveyed 1,005 people. The data was weighted against census information to ensure a balanced picture of demographics. An unweighted poll of this size has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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One Response to “Employers discriminate against older adults, Canadians tell pollster”

  1. It is no surprise to me that age plays a major role when it comes to the workforce. Age discrimination, in any case, is wrong, and unethical, especially when it comes to employment, and especially in this day and age. Though it was not a huge surprise to me, it was interesting to find out some of the statistics highlighted in this article, and it was also frustrating to see that it is not only the youth being discriminated against in the workforce, but also our elders.

    I am aware that age has plenty to do with employers and who they decided to hire, however, it made me angry to actually see a statistic, which was highlighted in this article, that “Only nine per cent said they would hire someone aged 18 to 24, or aged 55 to 64. And only three per cent said they would hire someone over the age of 65”, and this was based on the fact that their experience is equal to that of those aged 34; 35 to 44; 45 to 54. It is not right, nor is it fair to base one’s decision, as to whether to hire someone or not, based on their age.

    According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, it is prohibited to discriminate someone based on age, in “employment, housing accommodation, goods, services and facilities, contracts and membership in trade and vocational associations” (The Ontario Human Rights Commission). I feel it may be easier for someone to be discriminated against due to their age, as it may not be a form of discrimination that is taken more seriously then other forms. Some employers may not think that they are discriminating against someone’s age, especially if those individuals that were being interview, had not been given an explanation as to why they were not hired for the position.
    However, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, age discrimination “can have the same economic, social and psychological impact as any other form of discrimination” (The Ontario Human Rights Commission).

    In our society today, younger adults, even teenagers, are needing jobs more than ever, whether it be to just support themselves, or even to help support for their families altogether. To survive in this world now, we need money, and to not obtain a job, due to one’s age can be discouraging, especially if they are being turned down more than once. Also, they may be turned down due to lack of experience. They need to start somewhere, don’t they? How are they going to get experience if no one will hire them in the first place? As for the elderly, some may need jobs to also maintain income for themselves. Quite possibly, their pensions have run out, or its simply not enough. Maybe they have no one to support them anymore, so they have no choice as to get a job.

    I don’t feel it is fair to turn someone down right away, and majority of the time, it is discrimination, whether it be from their age, or appearance etc. I’m not saying we need to give everyone a chance, but maybe there should be more diversity in the workforce. Employers need to be fair to everyone, and treat everyone as an equal, now more than ever, especially when it comes to employment.


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