Stereotypes associated with employment of older workers
Ageism in the Czech Republic is most commonly identified with employment practices. Every third older person has had personal experience of ageism when seeking employment 10 years before retirement. Significant inter-generational differences also exist in how Czech society perceives the value of older employees in the labour market.
The population of the Czech Republic, like most developed European countries, is ageing. This ongoing process of ageing is influenced by other demographic changes, such as the sharp fall in fertility in the Czech Republic and increasing life expectancy. Table 1 demonstrates the increasing percentage of older people among the economically active population.
|Dependency ratio:||60 /15-59 years||29.4||35.7||44.2|
|65 /15-64 years||19.6||21.9||30.8|
|Age index:||60 /0-14 years||126.9||166.9||193.1|
|65 /0-14 years||91.6||114.1||148.3|
Source: Demographic projections ČSÚ, 2004, middle variant
These demographic changes require pension reform to extend the retirement age. Moreover, the conditions of employment of older people and the possibility of job fulfilment must be considered. With regard to employment, older people are often confronted by social prejudices and negative attitudes concerning themselves or their work role. In fact, according to Glover and Branine (2001), ageism is present in all phases of employment, such as in the recruitment of new employees, delegation of work tasks, remuneration and employment benefits, participation in decision-making, access to further training, and career development.
An attempt to capture the opinions of different population groups on the employment of older people was made by means of selective research. Three simultaneous studies were conducted by the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (Výzkumný ústav práce a sociálních věcí, VUPSV, RILSA) , the main findings of which are given here.
Position of older employees in the job market
Only one third of respondents in the ‘Ageism 2003’ survey maintained that an employee’s age does not play a role in the labour market. According to respondents, the areas subject to most significant age differentiation were:
- job recruitment (77% of respondents believe that age plays a role);
- loss of employment (61%);
- possibilities for further training (59%);
- prospects for promotion (56%).
The age of an employee is of least importance in salary negotiations (only 41% of respondents saw age as a factor).
Stereotypes about older employees
Table 2 summarises certain qualities and characteristics attributed to workers of an advanced age. These qualities are standardised into three perceived types: ‘inadequate’, ‘redundant’, and ‘exceptional’. Two thirds of respondents believe that older workers lack knowledge in working with modern technology and computers, and more than half are convinced that older employees have problems with their sensory functions.
The view of older employees’ work qualities and abilities differs according to the age of respondents. This difference is noteworthy for the statement ‘older workers do not know how to adapt to change’, with which 46% of respondents aged 30-49 years agreed, compared with only 35% of respondents aged over 50 years. However, the ‘inadequacy’ of older employees is balanced by their ‘exceptional’ qualities, as they bring the added value of accumulated work experience (78% agreement). For the ‘exceptional’ type, the age difference of respondents was most evident in how they evaluated the efforts of older workers. Some 23% of respondents from the youngest age category believe that older employees work harder in fulfilling work tasks. This view increased as high as 41% among the oldest age category.
|Total||Age of respondent|
|15-29 years||30-49 years||50 years|
|They lack knowledge in working with modern technology and computers||65||66||68||62|
|They have problems with sight or hearing||52||45||51||58|
|They do not know how to adapt to change||42||44||46||35|
|They do not do as much work as before||31||35||34||27|
|They do not want to leave in order to make their position available to someone younger||35||41||37||31|
|Their superiors would rather let them go||22||21||19||27|
|They are not popular among fellow workers||13||16||13||12|
|They have more experience||78||81||72||85|
|They are more productive than some younger colleagues||35||32||30||44|
|They work harder||30||23||25||41|
Source: Ageism, 2003
It is of some concern that more than half of the younger respondents (aged 15-29 years) answered that older people should vacate their work positions in favour of young people because the latter are more productive and capable.
Discrimination in the labour market
The ‘Life in Old Age’ 2002 survey asked respondents (aged 60 years) the retrospective question of whether, in the 10 years before retirement, they were turned down for employment as a result of age or sex.
|Rejection on the basis of:||Total||Encountered once or more times|
|Once||More than once||Never||Women||Men||Primary||Trained/without matriculation||Secondary||Tertiary|
Source: Život ve stáří, 2002. Note: Only those respondents who were seeking employment during the relevant period are included.
In the case of older people, ageism is a more dominant form of discrimination than sexism. Every third respondent encountered discrimination on the basis of age in job interviews for various positions. According to the results, men can expect a higher risk of ageism when seeking employment. On the other hand, university-educated job seekers met with less age discrimination during job interviews for various positions.
'Vidovičová, L., Age discrimination - ageism: An introduction to the theory and occurrence of a discriminatory approach in selected areas with emphasis on the job market, Prague, VÚPSV - research centre Brno, 2005.' (544Kb pdf; in Czech)
'Karpíšek, Z., Manpower supply (Selected problems in the further development of manpower sources in the Czech Republic).' (718Kb pdf; in Czech)
'Kuchařová, V., Life in old age. Report on results of an empirical investigation.' (630Kb pdf; in Czech)
'Glover, I. and Branine, M. (eds.), Ageism in work and employment, Hants, Ashgate, 2001.'