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Ageism: Definition, Causes And Solutions

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Do we always look at an elderly person and immediately assume that they will not be productive, they will not be adaptable, they can’t perform their job? Or do we give them an opportunity? Because it’s our mindset then that determines whether we want to give a person the opportunity or not, regardless of that person’s age.

What Is Ageism And Where Can It Be Seen?

Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against a group of people because of their age. This phenomenon happens when people have prejudicial attitudes and thus perform discriminatory behavior towards people of a given age. Prejudice are preconceived negative judgment of a group and its members, and they are often supported by stereotypes. Stereotypes are beliefs about the personal attributes of a group of people. They may or may not be true. But, they are the generalisations about a group of people.

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Ageism is an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults. For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge. It is widespread and occurs throughout society in varying degrees, stereotyping in the media, discriminating in the community, and especially disadvantaging at the workplace. Just like any other forms of discrimination, Ageism can be explicit or implicit. It can be intentional, meaning a concious and deliberate process of thought and action to stereotype based on age. However, more commonly, it is inadvertent and implicit, when people unconsciously attribute certain characteristics to people because of their age. In daily social interactions, ageism typically occurs without much notice or concern. This essay will only be targeting older workers who want to continue working but are unable to because they are unfairly disadvantaged in the workforce, and not older workers who are planning for retirement.

Why Does It Happen?

Today, for a multitude of reasons, the majority of employers still prefer to recruit younger workers. These various factors influence markets to discriminate against older workers, for example, higher insurance costs and pension fund payments, higher salaries, and most importantly, not to mention the negative perceptions about ability. One such bias could be the view that age is a liability, as older workers are often stereotyped to be rigid and less open-minded and adaptable than their younger counterparts. However, it is not impossible, but in rare cases, ageism can also have a positive effect, such as when the attributes of age are deemed favourable. For example, some employers perceives a connection between aging and greater wisdom, patience and experience.

Why the Issue Is A Problem?

Generally, there are three major problems that comes with unemployment, social issues, economical problems and the health of those discriminated against. Firstly, social issues will arise. Social problems are factors that affect and damage society. Many problems like dishonesty, immorality etc will. arise in the society due to unemployment. It endangers the law and order situation of the country and its people and causes social disruption in the society. Next, Economic problems will subsequently surface too. Since older workers may miss out on training and development opportunities offered to their younger counterparts who are being groomed to be “high-potential leaders”, said Dr Stewart Lloyd Arnold, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, to The Straits Times. They are deemed less valuable in the workplace. The reality is that private-sector employers often retire employees at age 55 and hire younger workers in their place. In many cases, older workers who are rehired have to accept lower pay and lower-grade jobs that are not corresponding to their skill levels. However, in the worse case scenario where the worker is not rehired and In the situation of unemployment, he or she will have no source of income. Unemployment causes poverty which results to the possible burden of debt and economic problems will increase. In a macro perspective, there will be loss of human resource due to unemployment. If no constructive use of labour force is made, the economic growth of the country will decelerate. Lastly, the elderly who are discriminated upon may develop health and well-being consequences. In a study, specifically targeting women, it was showed that those who experienced age discrimination had greater overall depressive symptoms. The research discovered that age discrimination affected financial strain, which, in turn, increased women’s depressive symptoms. Women who reported age discrimination had lower odds of being in higher categories of overall life satisfaction. Despite legal protection being available, age discrimination at work is frequent and has significant effects on the older workers’ mental health over the life course.

Researches are calling attention to ageism as a potent stressor for worker’s mental health. Focusing on Singapore, we need to prepare for a rapidly ageing population in the next one to two decades. By 2030, the United Nations (UN) projected that there will be 1.8 million out of 6.34 million people who are aged 65 years or older, making up about 28 per cent of the total population. The numbers will reach 3.08 million, out of a total population of 6.58 million by 2050. This means that in about three decades, almost half of Singapore’s total population will be at least 65 years old.

The increase of the older generation population will result in an increase of elderly needed in the workforce. If nothing is done to change employers’ mindsets and ageism continues, our country’s development may be unsustainable and may result in an economic crisis. After all, why is it that their workforces are not made up of a mix of generations more reflective of the general population? Instead, there are several reasons why the older workers should be valued by employers. Having a more mature worker will improve the quality of decision making in the company by working against groupthink since every member will bring different experiences, perspectives, and approaches to solving problems. Research supports that diverse and inclusive teams tend to be more creative and innovative than homogenous groups. Not only that, having a diverse team increases customer insight. Thus, they are better able at understanding, targeting and serving diverse customer markets.

The government and relevant bodies has done a fair amount to attempt to improve this issue. Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) is an organisation that aims to promote the adoption of fair, responsible and progressive employment practices among employers, employees and the general public. As mindset change is also needed to improve the employability of older workers, TAFEP runs campaigns to raise awareness of the value that older workers bring to the workforce and encourage employers to tap on their skills and experience. Other than this, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also put in place a number of measures to increase the employability of older workers and encourage employers to hire older workers. Under the Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA), employers are required to offer eligible employees re-employment till age 67. Reduced employer CPF contribution rates for employees aged 55 and above further help to moderate the costs of hiring older workers for employers. Under the WorkPro scheme, employers can receive government funding support of up to $320,000 per company to implement age management practices and redesign workplaces and processes to create easier, safer and smarter jobs for older workers. In the Adapt and Grow initiative, the Career Support Programme also encourages employers to hire experienced, mature PMETs, especially the long-term unemployed, similarly by providing them with salary support. The various programmes put in place to improve the employability of older workers have been showing encouraging results. The employment rate of residents aged 55-64 has increased from 61.2% in 2011 to 67.3% in 2016. However, while the employment rate has gone up, the fact remains that age discrimination can be hard to eradicate.

In a 2016 interview with The Straits Times, General Manager of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) Roslyn Ten noted that unconscious biases against older employees may still be held by employers, colleagues and even older employees themselves. There are some measures that the Public, or relevant authorities can implement to remedy the problem, or at least reduce its incidence. Firstly, the only organisation that targets victims of ageism is TAFEP, this is unlike where other forms of discrimination have organisations focused on them solely. For example, Onepeople.sg that spearhead programmes to promote racial harmony, and educate singaporeans about racism. An organisation focused solely on the issue, ageism can be useful for the older workers as it can be easier for them to approach and more undoubtedly more accessible. They will know where to contact and ask for help when facing unfair laying off. This way, it will not only be easier to reach out to the public but it will also be easier for victims of ageism to reach help. However, the above mentioned strategy is only to tackle the effects of ageism, and will only be a temporary solution. The most important act is still to eradicate the prejudices against aged workers. Prejudice stems from attitude, while attitude consists of a feeling and belief that can predispose our reponse to something or someone. Since they also discriminate against themselves, there should be campaigns targeting the elderly and workshops There should also be dadada Problem with attitude. Less confident that they can achieve success Vulnerable to peer pressure More likely to avoid failure and rejection More highs and lows emotionally.

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