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  • Jana Kyriakou

Ageism in the workplace in the world and in Czech Republic

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

What is ageism?

The term ageism was first used by the American psychiatrist Robert Butler in a 1968 Washington Post article in the context of segregated housing policy. In 1975, Butler in his book “Why Survive? Being Old in America "develops the term, and in 1979 "ageism" was first included in "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language." The original and perhaps most widespread definition of ageism speaks of a process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination of people for their age (Butler 1975). The term is sometimes described by the synonym "age discrimination".

Let’s zoom in to Europe and the Czech Republic. The concept of ageism is gradually entering the Czech professional dictionary too. The first attempt at a comprehensive presentation of the phenomenon of age discrimination in the Czech context is the work of Mgr. Lucie Vidovićová, Ph.D. (2005), who defined ageism as follows:

"Ageism - Age Discrimination is an ideology based on a shared belief in the qualitative inequalities of the various stages of the human life cycle. It manifests itself through a process of systematic, symbolic and real stereotyping and discrimination of persons and groups on the basis of their chronological age and / or their affiliation to certain generations. "

Ageism in the workplace

Ageism - the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people based on their age - is pervasive and experienced by both younger and older participants in the labour market. Many older workers face ageism when looking for new jobs, training opportunities and career development or are pushed to early retirement in times of economic recession. Ageism in the labour market is prevalent and costly to businesses who do not make the most of the potential of their ageing workforce. At the individual level, ageism has been shown to negatively affect health and well-being and can reduce life expectancy by up to 7.5 years.

Ageism is costly for both employers and employees, and for societies at large. Recently PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated that if member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) increased the employment rate of those aged over 55 to match that of New Zealand (where it is highest), this could boost total OECD GDP by around USD 3.5 trillion in the long run. (PwC 2018, p. 18.)

Labour market in Czech republic

Perceptions of chronological age play an important role in the labour market. A survey among Czech adults aged 18–80 in 2012 showed that among those who feel that their age is important during their working life (79 per cent of the sample in 2012) the vast majority feels that their age is a critical factor in being hired or dismissed, offered training, a promotion or when salary levels are being decided upon (see graph below).

Source:: Vidovićová 2008: 169 (for 2003 & 2007); Survey Ageismus 2012 for data for 2012.Representative sample of Czech population, age 18 - 80 years.

World Health Organisation (WHO) call to action

WHO published a global report on ageism in March 2021. The report states that both older and younger adults are often disadvantaged in the workplace and access to specialized training and education declines significantly with age. Ageism against younger people manifests across many areas such as employment, health, housing and politics where younger people’s voices are often denied or dismissed.

The report notes that policies and laws that address ageism, educational activities that enhance empathy and dispel misconceptions, and intergenerational activities that reduce prejudice all help decrease ageism.

All countries and stakeholders are encouraged to use evidence-based strategies, improve data collection and research and work together to build a movement to change how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing, and to advance progress on the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.

“Ageism towards younger and older people is prevalent, unrecognized, unchallenged and has far-reaching consequences for our economies and societies,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Together, we can prevent this. Join the movement and combat ageism.”

We at Motion Digital are glad we can be part of this movement and actively fight against ageism through the international Erasmus+ project LearnGen.

Author: Jana Kyriakou.



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