Is work a matter of age?

Is work a matter of age?

Monday, 6 november 2017 | Brenda Rodríguez López

Age can become a handicap when trying to find a job. The current labor market, conditioned by the emerging gig economy and digital transformation, does not allow elderly age to have many options to develop its potential. Considering that retirement is delayed, aged population is increasingly numerous, work is temporal and there is an excessive tendency to micro-specialization, the scenario that arrives presents even more adverse for senior professionals. But are veteran employees really a burden for the companies? Are Baby Boomers less employable?


According to the Population Division of the United Nations, Spain is the tenth country with the oldest population in the world. In 2030, it is estimated that it will occupy the fourth place in this international ranking. The national age average reaches 43 years old. It exceeds the European average by four years –according to data from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics–. However, the rest of the continent also shows a trend towards the aging population. This situation sets out some issues like the decline of European participation in the world GDP, a possible slower adaptation to the digitization or problems in maintaining the current welfare state. Numbers speak for themselves, our society gets older. 

Time goes by and it is a weight that we all carry. While in other cultures –like the Japanese or Chinese ones– old people occupy a prominent position, our youth people veneration moves the older population to the background. Although paradoxical, senior professionals cannot find their place in a society where the elderly people are increasingly growing. The Adecco Foundation has showed in a report the serious situation of unemployed people who are over 45 years old. The conditions are worse for those who are over 55. Seven of every ten unemployed of that age consider that they will never work again. This elderly group thicken the large number of long-term unemployed people. If our main resource is experience, why do not we take advantage of it? Are we missing a "gold" opportunity?

A change of mindset

Discrimination based on age, or ageism, is still an unresolved matter in our labor market –the situation also gets worse in the case of women–. Although youth unemployment is high, since 2007 the number of unemployed over 55 years has grown 322%. The prejudices and social stigmas still present in our society show that we still have to work hard in the labor integration of professionals of more advanced age. The exchange between generations and the experience of these workers can enrich the human capital of companies. The integration of different profiles in companies is a key factor on the road to business success.

The headlines of the press are full of allusions to millennials. Just typing the word in a search engine, the news about what millennials like, how they are, what they consume or how they work are hundreds, even thousands. In contrast, older people barely appear in the media. The 'Generation Y' has overturned the old precepts of work, it is the leading role of the digital transformation. But veteran professionals can also adapt to the new digital paradigm. Experience is a degree. In a labor scenario where temporality –with a rate that already reaches 27.4% –is so present, this resource is not trivial.

Although timidly, the trend in hiring older people seems to be changing. The adoption of new work formulas in companies such as headrenting or interim management, renting of executive managers, evidence the importance that the profiles with a greater experience in business activity can have. These highly qualified professionals can offer services also as external providers in a partial and flexible way, work for several companies and position themselves as highly employable workers. Their knowledge and skills serve to promote specific projects, without the need for the firms to incorporate them into their personnel. Companies can choose the specific profile they need according to their circumstances and work with professionals with an extensive experience.

Is work a matter of age?

Baby Boomers also exist

One of the stigmas mark the elderly people the most is their limited capacity to face changes. In an age in the middle of digital transformation, the lack of technological permeability can be a serious problem. In the struggle to adapt first and better to the coming changes, companies sometimes forget that not only by hiring new digital talents will achieve their goals, all employees will have to adapt to the change. Investment in the digital training of workers, both seniors and millennials, can significantly increase the profitability level of a business. Elderly people do not have to be left behind. The companies that best integrate the different profiles have more options to achieve their goals.

Boomer Generation is a considerable number of the structure of any company and, like the millennials, also has its particularities:

  • They are known for defending its demands with greater fervor. This feature does not have to be a negative issue, boomers can become into great negotiators and are more accustomed to dealing with customers and entrepreneurs.
  • Their greater professional grounding allows them to work with ease in complex environments
  • Their network of contacts is wide thanks to their large experience.
  • Young people are more likely to change their base stations. On the contrary, boomers look for job stability. The loyalty to the company can be very large.
  • If they are hired they can contribute to generate tax credits for the company.

Being older and having a strong position in the labor market is possible. More experienced workers can learn from young people, but boomers still have a lot to teach. Are we willing to listen to them?