Ageism, dual and multiple discrimination

Ageism, the discrimination against someone on the basis of their age, is pervasive in the UK and research indicates that it will persist or worsen in the future.

  • Research by the University of Kent found that ageism is more frequently experienced than any other form of discrimination.
  • People in their 50s report high levels of discrimination compared to their lives as a whole across issues of age, gender, race and disability.
  • Ageism is often experienced in conjunction with other forms of discrimination.
  • Women over 50 are disadvantaged by observed age/gender discrimination.
  • BME women over 50 are vulnerable to particular disadvantage.
  • The full University of Kent report can be viewed here.

Age/gender inequalities

Women over 50 can experience combined discrimination based on both gender and age.

  • Employment rates for women aged 50 to 64 are lower than for men – 66% for women compared with 76% for men.
  • Rates of economic inactivity are particularly high for women aged 50 to 64 – 32% for women compared to 21% for men of the same age. The main reasons given for economic inactivity are health issues, early retirement and caring responsibilities.
  • The peak age for caring is 50 to 64 according to Carers UK, and women tend to have greater caring responsibilities than men. Analysis of the Family Resources Survey 2009/10 by the Resolution Foundation found that the one in seven over 50s who provide informal care are predominantly women.
  • This causes significant financial disadvantage. Carers UK found that on average carers lose £11,000 in annual earnings, due to either a cut in hours worked or a change in role, rising to £12,000 for 55 to 59 year olds and £13,000 for 60 to 64 year olds.
  • Women over 50 are more likely to be in part-time employment at lower rates of pay than equivalent full time work. If work is flexible it may help in balancing work and other responsibilities such as caring. But part-time work is not necessarily flexible if it does not meet the specific needs of the individual employee.

Age related pay inequalities

Workers aged over 50 are paid less than those in their 40s and have lower levels of long-term salary growth. This does not match trends in productivity which peaks in the mid-50s.

  • Earnings of employees aged 40 to 49 are 11% higher than those of employees aged over 50 according to data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2016 (ASHE Survey).
  • The ASHE Survey shows that pay peaks in your 40s then gradually declines.
  • These are trends in full-time pay, measured on both an annual and hourly basis, and indicate that many over 50s at work have had to shift to jobs with lower rates of pay than in their earlier careers.
  • Productivity peaks in the early to mid-50s, so career trends in pay and productivity do not match.

The combined age/gender pay gap

Women on average earn less than men. For women over 50 this gender pay gap is wider than for younger women. Moreover, the gender pay gap has shrunk in recent years for younger women but has not changed for women over 50.

  • Analysis by the TUC shows that the gender pay gap is widest when women reach 50 (see here).
  • According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) the gender pay gap increases over the lifetime, associated particularly with having children (see paper here). For young women without children the gender pay gap is around 10% but rises steadily to around 33% in the 12 years following the birth of a first child and then plateaus.
  • The IFS analysis looks at hourly wages and so does not simply reflect a reduction in earnings due to reduced hours. However, many women do reduce their hours after childbirth and the implication is that wages rise more slowly for those not working full time. The paper suggest that this could reflect a perceived reduction in accumulated experience due to reduced hours worked.

Age related inequalities in recruitment

The recruitment process favours younger candidates. So for people over 50 who have been made redundant or taken a break from work, re-entry into the job market is more difficult irrespective of skills and competencies.

  • A recent study revealed significant inequalities in the chance of being offered an interview between older and younger candidates with identical qualifications and experience.
  • Candidates in their late 20s were over 4 times more likely to be offered an interview than those over 50.
  • The disparity between the experience of older and younger workers is greater for women than for men.
  • The most extreme disadvantage was experienced by 50 year old women applying for a factory job. They were 25 times less likely to be offered an interview than younger women.
  • The full study can be viewed here.

Socio-economic inequalities

Experiences of people over 50 vary according to socio-economic status.

  • People over 50 in low to middle income households are more likely to be unemployed and are also more likely to be long-term unemployed.
  • 50 plus workers on low to middle incomes are more likely to work in traditional industries where employees are more vulnerable to redundancy during a recession.
  • Over 50s earning higher incomes tend to be in professional occupations, with higher skill levels and qualifications.
  • These inequalities may be combined with inequalities relating to gender, ethnicity and disability.

Regional employment inequalities

Employment rates for people over 50 vary regionally in the UK with the lowest rates in regions where traditional industries have historically predominated.

  • Patterns of regional employment for people aged 50 to 64 largely mirror those for the population as a whole.
  • Employment rates tend to be lower in regions where traditional industries have predominated which are now in decline.
  • Lower employment rates for 50 to 64 year olds are found in the North West and North East and higher rates in the East, South East and South West.
  • 9 more people in every hundred aged 50 to 64 are employed in the East of England than in the North West.

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