A Closer Look

Ageism – Hiring managers perceived only about 15 to 18 percent of the 45-plus candidates they saw to be a fit

New research quantifies the struggles that midcareer workers—those 45 and over—worldwide face and suggests possible interventions to level the playing field.

Roberta Fusaro: Just recently, you and your colleagues at Generation released a report that looks at the plight of workers age 45 and older. The findings suggest that people in this cohort are struggling, particularly those looking for entry-level or intermediate positions. What’s the employment situation for older workers in the US and elsewhere? How exactly are they struggling?

Mona Mourshed: When you look at the long-term unemployed across Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] countries, what you find is that 40 to 70 percent of them are age 45 to 50-plus. The reality is that once you hit a certain age, it becomes much harder for you to be employed.

When we surveyed people who are aged 45-plus across seven countries, 63 percent had been unemployed for more than a year, versus 36 percent for those who are age 18 to 34. So there’s a very stark reality that employers perceive you and your capabilities very differently when you’re age 45-plus, particularly when you’re seeking to switch into a new career.

Roberta Fusaro: When this cohort struggles or faces these challenges, how does that affect the global economy? How does that affect society? What are the impacts of this form of ageism, if we want to call it that?

Mona Mourshed: We should absolutely call it that. When you look at what will happen from the year 2050, you’ll find that four in ten people are actually age 50-plus.

This cohort is the most educated and has the best healthcare outcomes of any other time for this age cohort in history. For the world to not be able to take advantage of the productivity and expertise of this population is tragic—let alone what it means for their own personal lives—if they’re unable to have opportunity and financial independence.

Roberta Fusaro: We mentioned the term ageism. One of the more interesting, paradoxical findings from the report is what hiring managers are saying about older workers. They view them as being less valuable as hires, and yet they speak very highly of those currently in their organizations. What’s that all about? How can those two perspectives exist simultaneously?

Mona Mourshed: Yes, that was one of the most strident findings in our research. We asked hiring managers, what are their perceptions of job candidates in the different age brackets of 18 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45-plus? What happened is that hiring managers, and this is across sector and across seven countries, consistently said they perceived only about 15 to 18 percent of the 45-plus candidates they saw to be a fit for the roles for which they were hiring.

Then we asked, for those age 45-plus who happened to be hired, somehow managed to get through, what’s their performance on the job? It turns out, 87 percent of those individuals are performing as well, if not better than, their younger peers. Ninety percent of them are viewed as having long retention potential, if not more so than their younger peers. That right there is the definition of bias. It’s when you see exceptions to your perceptions, yet the bias prevails. That is tragic.

What was also quite stark was that this perception bias was absolutely universal across all seven countries in our sample.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ The economic impact of ageism | McKinsey

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