Older jobseekers face bias – new study

Published: 4 August 2015 at 05:00

Headshot Nick Drydakis

Anglia Ruskin research highlights widespread discrimination in UK job market

A new study shows that older jobseekers are facing widespread discrimination in the UK – and older female applicants are more likely to experience bias than men.

Using carefully constructed CVs, researchers at Anglia Ruskin University's Lord Ashcroft International Business School applied for 1,836 jobs advertised between July 2013 and May 2015. 

One set of CVs were for a 28-year-old and the other for a 50-year-old applicant, and the CVs featured almost identical skills and interests.

Despite the older applicant having significantly more experience than the younger candidate, overall they were 4.2 times less likely to be offered an interview.

And the difference was even more pronounced for women, with the 50-year-old female candidate 5.3 times less likely to get an interview than the 28-year-old female.

Jobs in the factory and industrial sector had the highest barrier to entry, with the 50-year-old female applicant being 25 times less likely to be offered an interview.

Meanwhile, older male applicants were 3.6 times less likely to be offered an interview than their younger counterpart.

The study also found there was no significant link between a company having a HR department or providing written commitments to equal opportunities, and the level of discrimination displayed.

The research, led by Dr Nick Drydakis, was commissioned by People Management, the official magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and is published in their August edition.

Dr Drydakis, Reader in Economics at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "Our study suggests that work is becoming less age-friendly, not more, and that older people have to spend more time and effort than younger people to obtain an interview.

"Unfortunately workforce ageing is still often viewed negatively by those working in HR, who focus on difficulties and conflicts instead of potentials and opportunities.

"Those involved in recruiting need to be trained to carry out age-sensitive selection processes, and the Government should require firms to have 'ageing at work' policies."

"With an ageing population and the official retirement age creeping upwards, this is an issue that needs to be tackled. Simply encouraging older people to re-enter the labour force may not guarantee that they will be able to find jobs in a timely manner, if at all."