Overcoming the paradox of employers' views about older workers

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 2011, 22 (6), pp. 1248 - 1261
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In advanced and developing economies, ageing populations and low birth rates are emphasising the need for retaining and sustaining competent older workers. This paper examines human resource and governmental policy and practice implications from the contradictory accounts directe4d towards those workers aged over 44 years, who are usually classified as 'older workers'. It focuses on a key and paradoxical impediment in the workforce retention of these workers. Using Australia as a case study, this paper argues that policies and practices to retain and sustain workers aged 45 or more need to de-emphasise the term 'older workers' and reconsider how human resource management and government policies, as well as practices by workers themselves might pursue longer and more productive working lives for emplyees aged over 45. It seeks to elaborate the paradox of the (under)valuing of older workers' contributions and provides direction for retaining and supporting the ongoing employability of these workers. It concludes by proposing that government, industry bodies and sector councils that seek to change employer attitiudes will likely require a dual process comprising both engagement with older workers and a balanced appraisal of their worth. Alone, subsidies and/or mandation may well serve to entrench age bias without measures to redress that bias through a systematic appraisal of their current and potential contributions. In addition, to support this transformation of bias and sustain their employability, older workers will likely need to exercise greater agency in their work and learning.
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