Is there a bias against older workers?


Is there a bias against older workersThe good news is a record number of older workers over the age of 60 are flooding the job market and have been since 2009. In fact, Canadians over 60 account for almost one third of all net job gains, in spite of the fact that they represent only about 8 per cent of the total labour force. Even more surprising is the fact that about 37 per cent of those who found work during this period were in their seventies. In contrast, during this same period, workers under the age of 59 suffered net job losses of 500,000.

“Most of the job gains since the recovery began in 2009 have been concentrated in service industries, including professional, scientific, and technical services and health care, but with the single biggest category being retail,” TD Economist, Francis Fong.

On the flip side, the federal government recently estimated that one third of older employees are working part-time, and the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives estimates it at a higher 39 per cent. By comparison, just 28 per cent of employees aged 25 to 54 worked part-time as a matter of preference.

So many older workers accept part-time work because they may have no other choice.

“There are concerns that inadequate savings earlier on in life has led many to work in retirement to supplement their income,” Francis Fong.

For those older workers approaching retirement, the workplace can be filled with bias and prejudice, and a belief that older is synonymous with obsolete.

Recognizing ageism in the workplace

Although laws exist to protect workers from discrimination, ageism is practiced in subtle ways. Employees over the age of 50 who experience any combination of the following may be at risk of losing work security through ageist practices:

  • Being regularly passed over for promotions, career opportunities, professional development
  • Being assigned to work that is below your position or abilities
  • Being left out of briefings or excluded from meetings
  • Being disciplined for doing something younger workers do without consequences
  • Being isolated while management socializes only with younger employees
  • Best leads, projects, assignments and technology go only to younger workers
  • Attitudes towards you change once you reach an age “milestone”
  • Recurring comments, questions or jokes about your possible retirement

If we are continuing to see the rise of older workers in the workforce, then we need to address ageism in the workplace and put policies in place to make sure their rights are protected the same as any other member of the workforce.

“I definitely think we will continue to see the labour force participation rate of older Canadians continue to rise. The broader story is of an aging labour market and a slowdown in population growth. I’m worried about labour shortages,” Chief Economist, Craig Alexander, TD Bank.

If you have experienced ageism in the workplace, take matters to your supervisor or HR representative. They are there to support you and to take corrective and if necessary, disciplinary action against the offending party or parties. In addition, an EAP counsellor can help you manage the emotional stress you may be experiencing. Call 1 866 833-7690 or visit

About the author
Mark Pundzius has over 15 years’ experience in career counseling, specializing in assisting workers with career management, advancement, and transition challenges. His previous incarnations as an Administrative Clerk, On-Board Service Rail Agent, Retail Manager, Antique Restorer, and Bed & Breakfast Owner/Operator have broadened his perspective on labour market realities and circuitous career paths. A graduate of the Career & Work Counsellor program at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario), he is passionate about the changing world of work. Mark is currently the Supervisor of the Career Counselling Services team at Shepell·fgi.

Tags: ,