Helsinki (10.06.1999 - Juhani Artto) In the last few years the proportion of older workers among unemployed commercial workers has steadily increased. Is age discrimination one of the reasons for this trend? This question was the subject of a new study commissioned by the Commercial Workers Union.

The study indicates that unemployed commercial workers over 50 years of age are seriously at risk of becoming victims of ageism, even though age discrimination is prohibited by law in Finland. However, Anne Kouvonen, the author of the study, is cautious in her conclusions.

The most alarming evidence comes from figures on how often various age groups were invited to recruitment interviews during the last twelve months. Older applicants are invited much less frequently than younger ones, as shown in the table below:

How many times the worker looked for work during his/her last unemployment period

how often various age groups were invited to recruitment interviews during the last twelve months

45-50years
(%)

51-54 years
(%)

55-57 years
(%)

0

15

15

3

1

41

24

8

2

47

38

18

3

46

29

10

4-9

58

34

17

10+

60

46

26

A further indication came directly from the comments of employers. More than a fifth (21 %) of those aged 55-57 years had heard directly from enterprise recruiters that they favoured younger applicants. The percentage was not much lower (19 %) among those of 51-54 years of age but only six per cent among those of 45-50 years of age.

Another recent study showed that more than a third of employers in small and medium size enterprises are very poorly informed about legislation prohibiting age discrimination. This may explain why so many employers openly reported their own illegal practises.

A clear majority of older unemployed workers were of the opinion that they are victims of age discrimination. Among those of 55-57 years of age, 77 per cent think they have been discriminated against due to their age. Among those of 51-54 years of age the percentage was 71 and those of 45-50 years of age 59 per cent.

As a direct reflection of this, job seeking activity declines as unemployed commercial workers approach early retirement age.

In her conclusion Anne Kouvonen states: "Although the situation of 55-57 year-old unemployed commercial workers may be regarded as desperate, it may also be claimed that those of about 50 years of age are in the most difficult situation. It is more difficult for them to get a job than for applicants below their age but the opportunity of early retirement is still far away".