Age & Wisdom

English journalists must have age on their minds these days. In the same week, articles about age-discrimination appeared in The Independent (7/19/00), and The Observer (7/23/00).

The Independent presented a case history:

Skandia, a Swedish insurance company, set up a forecasting team to analyze their business, worldwide. The teams were comprised of employees from different staff levels, with varying lengths of employment:

  • Long-term employees were selected for their history and experience.
  • New hires were chosen for their fresh perspective.

The Independent went on to demonstrate why such teams would be impossible to create in English financial service and dot-com companies. The article explained that financial service companies don't hire anyone over 43, and dot-coms limit employment to people under 35.

In order to get the same spectrum of wisdom that Skandia can tap internally, the financial service and dot-com companies have to rely on advice from experienced professionals at universities and consultancies.

The Independent suggested that a better solution would be to adjust compensation levels and working conditions of older workers so that they would be willing to keep working. [Oh my. Is that the problem? Those old 30- to 40-somethings don't want to work anymore?]

By surveying recruiters, The Observer discovered that:
  1. IT businesses are willing to pay huge sums of money to older people who are over 40, provided they are self-employed [outside consultants].
  2. The Employers' Forum on Age was organized by UK banks in an effort to head off legislate against ageism at work. [So far, it's working.]
The Observer offered the following explanations for ageism:
  1. Middle aged senior managers like to have young girls around to help and would seldom consider a 50-year-old man for the same work.
  2. Many employers like the 'can do' attitude of young people which contrasts with a more stately or laid-back style of older workers.
  3. Employers don't want to invest in training someone unless they can exploit that training for many years.

Now who can argue with that?