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You’ll Understand When You’re Older???

Link Blog | June 3, 2020

Age Action – Why People Who Want to Work Longer Should be Allowed to

In 1984, a 73 year old Ronald Reagan was coming under media scrutiny. The oldest serving president in U.S. history was now seeking re election, and commentators opined that he may not be fit to hold office for another 4 years. During a Presidential debate, the moderator asked the incumbent what the newspapers had been asking for weeks.

“Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function (as President)?” Reagan’s quip in response was witty and helped to end the chatter around his capacity. Addressing the questioner and the voters he said “Not at all, and I want you to know that I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” The rest is history. Today it’s not in the least bit unusual to see world political and business leader’s over 65 (think Warren Buffett and Richard Branson), however despite those people being revered and respected as luminaries and contributors to society we live in a world where a lot of people find it difficult to get work because of their age.

Retirement age in Ireland is generally 65, although some companies have a lower threshold. I can understand an employer’s reluctance to hire someone for a permanent role who may well be planning to stop work in a few years, however, as a general rule, if someone is qualified, technologically adept, and willing then the experience an older person can bring and the lack of other commitments to distract them (often children have been reared and mortgages paid) should be highly prized. Whereas a groupthink in relation to older candidates has existed, attitudes are beginning to change. In 2012 18.5 % of people over 65 were working in the US, compared to 10.8% in 1985. At home things are changing too. The public sector now has a minimum retirement age of 65 in many areas, meaning that people who are healthy and suitable can continue to work. This is in part due to the realisation that pension costs are growing as people live longer.  Recent changes to State Pension eligibility rules mean that from 2021 new recipients will have to be 67 years of age, as opposed to 66 today. This means that under current rules many people without private pensions will find themselves in a situation where they have no income for a period of years between the end of their career and their pension kicking in. While this is a good argument for starting a private pension, it also means that we should examine whether contractual retirement ages are too blunt of a tool for both employees and employers.

This is something that is on candidates minds today.  In my line of work, I’m often asked if age will count against an applicant. The answer is that an age bias probably does exist. Of course, there are ways to counter any misgivings on the part of an employer. Candidates should not rest on their laurels or on past experience alone. They should be up to speed technologically – if they need to upskill there are mature student programmes and government retraining schemes available. They should also make sure CV and interview skills are properly honed and should make absolutely no apologies for age. Rather, candidates should use age, but more importantly experience as an advantage, impressing upon employers their flexibility and desire to work. I recently placed two men well into their 60s, and a woman in her late 50s in well paid and skilled jobs so although there is a bias, opportunities do exist.

Numbers associated with retirement (55,60,65) are outdated, and don’t take account of the vitality and sharpness of a lot of people at or nearing that age. Age is not some perfect indicator of capacity. The sooner employers realise that, the more opportunities may present themselves. That would be a win – win for individuals and society.

Cormac Spencer

Link Personnel Services

01 845 6312

Link Personnel Services - For Recruitment, Call Us First > Uncategorized > You’ll Understand When You’re Older???

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