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Age becomes the new battlefield

17 October 2006

Age becomes the new battlefield in workplace discrimination

A new international workplace survey has found that almost half of all New Zealanders believe they have been discriminated against in applying for a job with both young and older workers facing the greatest prejudice.

The survey found that 43% of respondents in New Zealand say they have experienced discrimination of some type when applying for a job in the last five years.

The vast majority of those who say they have been discriminated against did nothing about it.

Those applying for jobs in the Auckland area reported higher rates of discrimination (46%) than those in Wellington (37%).

Males were the most discriminated against with 45% facing prejudice when applying for a job compared with 42% of females.

The major sources of discrimination identified by respondents were age, cited by 19%, followed by race (10%), gender (6%), and disability (3%).

The survey found that people with a university degree reported higher rates of discrimination.

The Kelly Global Workforce Index sought the views of approximately 70,000 people in 28 countries including more than 1,200 in New Zealand.

However, levels of discrimination in New Zealand are not adverse by global standards, with New Zealand ranking 19th on the list of 28 countries. Sweden, Thailand and Singapore were the countries that recorded the highest rates of discrimination in the worldwide study.

Workers at both ends of the age spectrum - both the young and the older - face increasing age-based discrimination.

Some 37% of workers aged 45 or older felt they had been discriminated against on the basis of their age. But 28% of younger workers aged up to 24 also believed they were victims of age discrimination.

Only a small fraction of those who felt discriminated against actually took the matter further and most were unhappy with the outcome.

Approximately 35% of those surveyed said they also experienced discrimination in their day-to-day working life.

Kelly Services Sales & Operations Director, Steve Kennedy, said the figures highlight how discrimination is changing over time and age is the new epidemic.

"Ageism has overtaken ethnicity and sexism in many areas as the greatest source of discrimination in employment.

"At a time when we face an ageing population and skills shortages, many organisations are putting obstacles in the way of hiring older people.

"This can be devastating for individuals but it is also means many organisations are shutting off an important source of talent and diversity.

"Organisations that don't address these issues directly can do themselves considerable damage and can suffer costs both direct and indirect.

"They may suffer high staff turnover, absenteeism, poor morale, low productivity, poor reputation, and also the possibility of civil claims and penalties arising from breach of anti discrimination laws," Steve Kennedy said.

"It is critical that managers ensure that employees fully understand their rights, and that managers faced with workplace discrimination take immediate steps to remedy the situation.

"Employees will themselves be looking to see that instances of discrimination are handled decisively, sensitively and effectively," Steve Kennedy said.


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