A specialist recruiter for people 45 and older is calling for urgent action from private and public organisations to ditch the attitude and to benefit from the experience and knowledge this age group can offer.
Kate Ross says she's come across hundreds of people who have been at the wrong end of ageism. They can't find work and they can't save properly to support their retirement.
She's founded the organisation Wise Ones to fight what she sees as a scourge in New Zealand as people become victims to a whole host of excuses by employers who are just wriggling out of employing anyone who is in their final 20 years of work.
According to Statistics Zealand there are 300,000 such people actively looking for work, she told Karyn Hay.
Although there are some organisations looking to recruit from this cohort, Ross says they are in the minority.
Older workers have much to offer, she says.
“People who have been around the block, who have actually got 20 to 30 years’ experience, and over a variety of roles, can add such great value to organisations and teams.
“And I think all teams need a balance. We need balance with age, and with gender. And if you can get that balance right, it just works brilliantly.”
So why does this prejudice exist? A perceived lack of tech savvy, she says.
“Can they keep up? Are they going to be able to change with the evolving economy? There are always these kinds of stock-standard excuses that come out that this group of individuals can't cope - which is just not correct.”
Ross says she has employed younger workers who bring their own strengths to an organizstion but may need more time to learn about the world of business.
“A lot of time teaching the way processes work, what's acceptable and what's not - and that's absolutely fine. But what you can do is employ an older person, who's got the understanding of how business works, who can fit into a team very, very quickly and just get on with the job.”
It is a prejudice that has been around for a long time she says, but the cohort of workers in this age group continues to grow. Not using them when there is a skill shortage is foolish, Ross says.
“I mean you just imagine you're getting all those 300,000 plus people working, that’s adding an extra $2 billion into the economy. And not only that, apart from an economic standpoint, you've got health benefits that go with it, you've got wellbeing benefits that go with it, you've got social benefits, you’re contributing.
“Everybody needs to feel part of something and I feel that if we can get these people at any age or stage working, part time work, volunteer work, full time, whatever it is that person is going to feel better all round.”