12 Dec 2022


Age Discrimination (Ageism) in the Workplace

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Academic level: University

Paper type: Research Paper

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Also known as ageism, age discrimination refers to any case of discrimination or stereotyping towards a group or an individual based on their age. It entails harboring negative beliefs and attitudes, acting in an unfair or biased manner, and propagating discriminatory policies and practices. In the workplace setting, ageism is commonly promoted by a dominant pervasive belief that older employees or job candidates are less skilled, educated, competent, or productive. In other words, in age discrimination, older people are thought of or branded as all being the same merely due to their age, making them to be treated unfavorably. According to Stypińska & Nikander (2018) , the negative attitudes about older individuals in the workplace have transpired because of the shift from attaching value to experience, to preferring efficiency and compliance over quality. The transformation promotes the stereotypes of older individuals as experienced but inefficient and high risk compared to younger individuals who are believed to be inexperienced but complaint ( Shippee et al., 2019) . Rather than viewing age and ageing as a natural aspect of an individual’s life, the negative stereotypes and generalizations that link them with unproductivity are used. Instead of acknowledging that workplaces are made up of diverse people of all characteristics, backgrounds, and ages, the dominant message for old job applicants and employees among most employers tend to be that mature age generally leads to reduced productivity. Age discrimination has led to a disproportionate composition of people comprising the workforce across all industries. 

Age Discrimination has led to older workers getting less employment opportunities and outright unemployment. Many old individuals tend to feel that their age is a disadvantage in their pursuit of employment. According to Gargouri & Guaman (2017), compared to younger job applicants of comparable resumes and qualifications, older job seekers receive fewer callbacks, leading to longer periods of unemployment, particularly among individuals wo are above the age of fifty years. This is particularly true and common among minority racial groups and women, given that cases of racial discrimination in the workplace usually intersect with racial and gender discrimination (Stypińska & Nikander, 2018). The implication for this is that the most likely affected by ageism in the workplace are those who are least able to afford many life needs. For instance, low-income workers usually have fewer opportunities to switch jobs, and similarly, marginalized ethnic and racial groups have higher likelihoods of feeling trapped in their present roles than others. Age discrimination in the workplace is rampant during recruitment as well as where employment decision-making are more extensive. The age bias has been found to impact on recruitment practices in diverse ways (Stypińska & Nikander, 2018). For instance, some job advertisements require creative, dynamic, and innovative applicants. Such descriptions usually target youths. Moreover, the manner in which employers short-list job applicants can be discriminatory in the sense that employers mainly tend to provide apprenticeships to younger people in the workplace. In some cases, applicants are required to show their date of birth during applications, in spite of the fact that such information may be irrelevant to the job listings. In the view of Stypinska & Turek (2017) , some interview questions that require applicants to reveal when they left school and how old their children are, promote perpetuation of age discrimination in the workplace. From the above-mentioned examples, it is evident that some employers screen job seekers according to their age, particularly at the recruitment stage. It is in light of this that research findings have demonstrated that many people above forty-five years of age tend to feel that employers pre-judge and reject them on baseless grounds such as over qualification and not fitting into the environment ( Shippee et al., 2019) . Moreover, besides confining mature age employees to temporary or casual contract positions, such individuals remain underemployed for longer periods. Consequently, they cannot secure the hours of work they need, potentially translating into financial insecurity and stress. 

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Nonetheless, age can be a positive and empowering experience that can benefit organizations in the workplaces. If employers can eliminate age from being a determinant of success and ability, they can create avenues to new opportunities in the workplaces ( Truxillo et al., 2017) . The reason for this is that with age comes experience. Younger employees may lack the general background of first-hand knowledge that mature employees have gathered over time. As a result, employees who fail to give opportunities to older individuals fail to tap this valuable experience. Furthermore, according to Truxillo et al. (2017) , older employees tend to be more confident and mature in their abilities compared to younger workers, and such a mindset is essential to effective and efficient realization of organizational objectives. Additionally, the mindset can allow organizations to enhance industry expertise and maintain a reputation of integrity. Age discrimination also heightens the challenges for growing businesses. Notably, older employees can act as mentors for their younger counterparts, teaching them the details of certain positions ( Gargouri & Guaman, 2017) . This enables employers to spend comparatively less time in managing their workforce, allocating more time on other tasks that contribute to business growth. Younger workers also acquire the skills that are pertinent to their success and the prosperity of the company. 

Age Discrimination has led to the workforce being composed disproportionately of young workers. Many managers prefer hiring youthful workforce to ensure that their own authority lines and power remain clear (Stypińska & Nikander, 2018). It is in light of this fact that some employers tend to recruit individuals on the basis of an inflexible absolute skills ideal that gives no chance or opportunity to individuals who lack the exact skills required in the workplace. The trend has led to a situation where workforces disproportionately composed of younger people ( Gargouri & Guaman, 2017). This leaves workplaces with little or no older employees, who are experienced and wise enough to guide their younger counterparts on a wide range of organizational aspects. Although age discrimination makes managers view older workers as less trainable, less efficient, and less valuable compared to younger personnel, the stereotypes are largely misguided since they ignore the mature input in terms of experience that older workers can possess ( Truxillo et al., 2017). The stereotypes, nonetheless, deny mature older personnel access to training and promotions, which are channeled to younger individuals. The younger population of employees is given access to training and promotions on the belief that they can offer unlimited returns, whereas older individuals can only provide limited returns (Stypińska & Nikander, 2018). While older personnel may sometimes be viewed as loyal, many managers argue that they lack potential, denying them access to promotion prospects. On the other hand, younger workers are believed to be both competent at the job and having potential, explaining why they enjoy greater access to training opportunities and promotions. By failing to empower experienced personnel, ageism creates a negative work environment that does not acknowledge diversity. This, ultimately, causes distrust in businesses since younger workforce starts wondering if they will be the next victims of age discrimination. Consequently, organizations that promote age discrimination are likely to witness reduction in productivity due to increased sate of turnover caused by low morale ( Truxillo et al., 2017). The inability to sustain a consistent labor force gives organizations little prospect for long-term success. 

Age Discrimination contributes to the overall unemployment rate of the country. When older employees cannot get employment opportunities or unable to get the number of hours of work they want or need, unemployment and underemployment occurs (Stypinska & Turek, 2017). This underemployment of older workforce presents a serious setback to the organizational productivity. The underemployed personnel can be people who work part time for organizational reasons or those that are employed part-time but can work more hours when given the opportunity. In addition to creating the economic costs of unemployment and underemployment, age discrimination also causes social costs related to unemployment (Stypińska & Nikander, 2018). To begin with, it increases the possibility of individuals living in poverty in future years. The reason for this is that without the opportunity to fully participate in full-time paid employment, individuals will be compelled to entirely depend on pension in future years, translating into poverty in old age. Consequently people in their old age will face difficulties in affording basic needs such as clothing, food, health, housing, and utilities ( Truxillo et al., 2017). This in turn, increases pressure on government resources. Worse still, the difficult economic conditions can aggravate the financial as well as emotional stress that old people living in poverty experience. When ageism works to deny elderly individuals access to quality paid employment, the situation can lead to serious mental health impact caused by both marginalization and inability to secure paid employment opportunities ( Gargouri & Guaman, 2017). Besides the effects of financial stress, individuals would lose their sense of self as well as the perceived status that individuals acquire by participating in quality paid jobs, potentially leading to inactivity, social isolation, cognitive decline, and depression. According to Shippee et al. (2019), ageism overwhelms individuals who would want to remain in the workplace. Their findings indicated that experiencing age discrimination in the workplace can contribute to a decline in mental health. Similarly, in their study, Gonzales et al. (2021) explored the impact of work-related ageism on the heath of women in the course of their life. The study investigated whether perceived ageism at work has an impact on women’s depressive symptoms as well as general life satisfaction. It was established that women who suffered from age discrimination in the workplace showed greater depressive symptoms compared to those who did not experience ageism in the workplace. The implication of this, therefore, is that age discrimination causes financial strain, which eventually aggravates depressive symptoms. 

In conclusion, ageism causes unbalanced composition of individuals in the workplace by denying older people a chance for employment and promotion, which ultimately impacts productivity and the economic and mental health of older people. Age discrimination has made older workers to secure less employment opportunities and outright unemployment since many old individuals tend to feel that their age is a hindrance in their search for employment. Ageism has also made the workforce to disproportionately consist of young workers, given that many managers prefer hiring youthful workforce to ensure that their own authority lines and power are maintained. Importantly, age discrimination contributes to underemployment and the overall unemployment rate of a country since when older employees cannot get employment opportunities or unable to get the number of hours of work they want or need, unemployment and underemployment occurs. This underemployment of older workforce presents a serious setback to the organizational productivity. 

Therefore, there is need to address ageism since if managers fail to address age discrimination, it would continue to impact businesses negatively through reduced employee morale, which in turn leads to low productivity. Notably, age discrimination has a damaging impact on the mental wellbeing of older populations. The reason for this is that when such individuals find it hard to secure employment or to be promoted because of their age, they face challenges of financial dependence, which can lead to mental health issues such as depression. To counteract the trends of age discrimination, there is need to vigorously enforce state and federal anti-age discrimination policies. Furthermore, there is need to change the manner in which workplaces operate by implementing transformations that will not only address near term goals but also gesture a permanent shift. In particular, organizations should endorse robust practices that encourage age-diverse work settings by providing apprenticeship opportunities to their employees of all ages for such personnel to thrive both financially, socially, and emotionally as they age. Managers need to prioritize making workplaces settings that embrace inclusion and age diversity. This would be a wise move, given the robust economic benefits linked to inclusivity in the workplace, which gives businesses more insight into diverse marketplaces. If businesses are to gain from the value brought to the workforce by older employees, organizations should remain committed to multigenerational labor force. The reason for this is that such a workforce is key to business growth and success. Additionally, more should be done to align organizational systems to fit all the demographics. Such efforts are needed to develop inclusive work environments that take proactive steps to give workers an opportunity to realize their unique and full potential. 


Gargouri, C., & Guaman, C. (2017). Discriminating Against Millennials in the Workplace Analysis on Age Discrimination against Young Adults.  Journal of US-China Public Administration 14 (1), 38-45. 

Gonzales, E., Marchiondo, L., Ran, S., Brown, C., Goettge, K., & Krutchen, R. (2021). Age Discrimination in the Workplace and its Association with Health and Work: Implications for Social Policy. 

Shippee, T. P., Wilkinson, L. R., Schafer, M. H., & Shippee, N. D. (2019). Long-term effects of age discrimination on mental health: The role of perceived financial strain.  The Journals of Gerontology: Series B 74 (4), 664-674. 

Stypińska, J., & Nikander, P. (2018). Ageism and age discrimination in the labour market: A macrostructural perspective. In  Contemporary perspectives on ageism  (pp. 91-108). Springer, Cham. 

Stypinska, J., & Turek, K. (2017). Hard and soft age discrimination: The dual nature of workplace discrimination.  European Journal of Ageing 14 (1), 49-61. 

Truxillo, D. M., Fraccaroli, F., Yaldiz, L. M., & Zaniboni, S. (2017). Age discrimination at work. In  The Palgrave handbook of age diversity and work  (pp. 447-472). Palgrave Macmillan, London. 

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