Looking for a job? We’re all in it, together.

The young face a catastrophic lifetime bill for lockdowns, writes Sherrell Jacobs in her column today. (The Telegraph). ‘They will be paying the cost of lockdown for the rest of their lives in higher taxes and worse public services’, she asserts.

Only the young?  Hello, Ms Jacobs!  Do you imagine that the others, the older workers aged 50-plus will be spared? That we’ll be living comfortably in our mortgage free homes cushioned by our fat pension pots and interest-heavy savings?   I don’t know anybody fitting that description.  According to surveys,  far from getting off lightly, older workers are suffering the effects of lock-down much more than the younger.

Despite reports that millennials have faced the worst job losses, Baby Boomers are just as likely as 20 to 39-year-olds to have been made redundant since the start of the pandemic, according to a report by the Financial Conduct Authority.  And the City Watchdog found that during lock-down over-55s suffered larger cuts to their earnings than any other age group.  Pay for this sector has fallen by 23pc on average, while millennials and middle-aged workers have had smaller salary cuts of 19pc and 17pc respectively.

We have also seen the biggest drop in number of hours worked since the outbreak, according to separate research by Rest Less, a job site for older workers.  Many have been impacted disproportionately and some are “now confronting real financial hardship and challenges ahead”.  It’s sad especially as people in this age group are likely to be supporting elderly parents and children and grandchildren, often sacrificially.

Rest Less reports that, “With birth rates having declined for decades, the over-50s have been the main driving force behind the success story of employment growth in Britain in the years leading up to the pandemic.  Crucially, they will be just as essential to any recovery of the economy on the other side.” The report makes interesting reading – https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/news/soul-destroying-ageism-recruitment-could-be-final-straw-over-50s-made-redundant-during.  It says that ‘for a good recovery, employers, employment support services and policy makers need to ensure that age isn’t a barrier.’  But a friend’s experience shows that it is – as effectively as the Thames barrier.

This friend, in his early 50s, went for an interview for a new job recently.  He’s a highly qualified and experienced marketing director, producing enviable results for a global, ‘knowledge based’ company in a burgeoning sector.  For those who know the difference between sales and marketing, he’s top-notch in terms of insight and creativity.  One of his passions is amateur dramatics and musicals and his social life includes friends of all ages – he doesn’t even think ‘age’.   At his interview he was devastated to be told that they were looking for someone more ‘hip’; someone who wouldn’t dream of wearing a suit to an interview.  His knowledge, his results and jazzy personality meant nothing.

It echoed the story of  47 year old Mr McClements, who was awarded £7,580.14 in compensation after being rejected for a job with Guys and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust because, despite interviewers  assessments showing that his qualifications and experience made him the No 1 applicant for the job,  the young, female team manager would be ‘uncomfortable’ asking him to do things because he had an 11 year-old daughter. Other comments made by the team included questioning whether Mr McClements was too experienced, whether he was too senior and how he was ‘very different’ to the woman he was replacing. The tribunal Judge, Tony Hyams Paris said, ‘We concluded that the point (she) was making was that she would find it difficult to manage someone who was much older than her; the reference to the daughter was to illustrate the maturity point.’  (Google Daily Mail, Father-50-wins-7-500-payout-rejected-NHS-job-millennial-women-colleagues.html)   Mr McClements’ compensation was for sexism and ageism.

These are just two examples – there are thousands out there.  Ageism is an invisible virus that doesn’t need to mutate to destroy lives. When he coined the term in 1969, psychologist and social activist Dr Rob Butler said that intergenerational warfare would be fiercest when resources were scarce. It’s what we are seeing right now, in articles like today’s that see only the young as hard done by – usually by the older – and see the older as not worth considering.

It’s going to take decades for us to overcome the effects of the pandemic.  Even longer to eradicate ageism.  It’s so short-sighted because,  as the pandemic slogan goes – we’re all in this together.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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