Generation Y. Victims of ageism.

It wasn’t that long ago that grey hair meant your job was in jeopardy. Anyone over forty, in fact, had trouble finding a job again once he lost it. As for women over forty getting a job, well, there were plenty of domestic positions around for them, but not much else.

How times have changed!

According to a report in “The Australian” newspaper (12/12/07) baby boomers are the age group of choice nowadays because of their experience and their work ethic. Generation X come next in preferred age group by small business owners, and Generation Y come last. Even Generation X bosses prefer to employ the older folks.

This is in spite of the world being obsessed with looking younger and younger, and having plastic surgery to obliterate any evidence of being on this planet longer than 20 years. Many people have abandoned the concept of aging gracefully (was it ever graceful?) and indulge in all sorts of therapy from Botox to peels to stretching the skin and knotting it around the ears. That’s their prerogative.

But when it comes to employment, it’s the reliable and experienced worker who has the advantage.

Reasons given for this new phenomenon is that older workers bring with them a world of experience. But that’s what they always offered, so it doesn’t gel with me as an explanation.

I think it’s because older workers will stick with a job longer whereas Generation Y (or Y bother, as I like to call them) have a very short attention span and require change or promotion within two weeks of taking up a position.

It’s not their fault that they want instant gratification in a world that offers them a pizza delivery in 15 minutes or they get it for free. Everything has been instant for them and so they have the attention span of a gnat.

They have never had to wait for anything for we have offered them instant internet connection, instant downloads of music, instant replies to their phone messages. You want it, so get it right now!

When they take a job they can’t wait for that increase in salary, that rise to fame, and so they start looking around for other opportunities. Their CV’s resemble a visit to Disneyland. One minute on the ferris wheel, 2 minutes in the Chamber of Horrors, a stint at Sizzler, two weeks in an I.T firm, three weeks at a repair shop. No wonder they can’t stick to anything.

They have never had to!

Employers have become smarter and now seek continuity and reliability, They need someone who will turn up to work on a Monday morning even if it’s been a hectic weekend. What they don’t want is someone phoning in and saying he’s suffering from the Bubonic Plague and can’t come in.

I know of a manager who employed many women but found that younger women did not last long. They’d have quarrels with their boyfriends and be unable to face the world. Or they’d decide to travel somewhere on the spur of the moment without giving a thought to what would happen at work during their absence.

And you could bet that on a Monday morning the phone was busy taking calls explaining why Kylie or Shany could not come to work that day.

The manager had hoped that if the women started the job at a young age they would develop with training and would repay that investment with loyal service to the company. This happened occasionally but not often enough to make it worthwhile.

Finally, the manager decided that he was fed up with the younger women’s unreliability and began to change the demographic in the office. He found that older employees were more loyal and business benefited from their genuine interest in their work.

Furthermore, what should have been an advantage to young women became a tangible disadvantage when the system of equal pay for equal work came into effect. Why should an employer take on a young person at the same rate of pay as an older experienced one who will increase business?

On top of that disadvantage, employers had to cater to pregnant women and even offer maternity leave. One couldn’t ask a woman if she intended to have children. That question was illegal, therefore it was much simpler to choose the older woman who already had a grown-up family or one who was beyond her reproductive years.

Large institutions can afford to support absent staff on maternity leave but smaller ones can’t have 25% of their staff away and yet have to keep open their jobs. It’s not economically viable.

Isn’t it ironic how a law that was meant to give women more opportunities at work has actually worked against them. These are unintended consequences of poor planning by well-meaning but naive legislators.

You are not going to hear the truth from employers in any public forum for fear of being accused of sexism. There are many unspoken advantages in choosing older employees and the one about experience is just “a convenient truth”, in my opinion.


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