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Employers’ Attitudes Toward Older Workers and Obstacles and Opportunities for the Older Unemployed to Reenter Working Life

Journal article
Authors Roland Kadefors
Jan Johansson Hanse
Published in Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies
Volume 2
Issue 3
Pages 29-47
ISSN 2245-0157
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Department of Psychology
Pages 29-47
Language en
Keywords Aging / attitudes / employability / older workers / unemployment / employers
Subject categories Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Psychology, Sociology, Applied Psychology, Work Sciences


The present study aimed at identifying the attitude-related barriers that older unemployed, jobseeking workers (50+) face when they endeavor to reenter the labor market and to investigate employers’ attitudes and perceptions of older workers. Two studies were conducted. In study 1, interviews were undertaken with 26 unemployed persons and 24 representatives of other stakeholders, including social partners and officials representing the Social Insurance Agency (FK) and the Public Employment Service (AF). In study 2, the attitudes among private sector employers were studied by carrying out a questionnaire survey (N = 147). The interview results showed that many unemployed job seekers had experienced negative age-related attitudes among employers. This observation was supported by other stakeholders. Perceived attitudes to older workers and lack of updated competence were considered crucial. The questionnaire study showed a mixed picture concerning employer attitudes. There was a statistical difference between older (>50 years) and younger employers; older employers believed that older women wanted competence development to a greater extent. There was also a significant difference between female and male employers’ opinions; female employers, in particular the older ones, assessed that older women wished competence development to a greater extent. These differences were not found with respect to views on older men. About half (52%) of the employers had the opinion that there was no difference between older and younger employees with respect to the ability to cope with changes or learning new things. However, younger female employers (but not older female employers) considered that older employees had greater difficulties with changes or learning new things. It is concluded that negative attitudes to older workers with respect to competence development tend to be most common among younger employers.

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