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Barriers to employment for marginalised mature age workers (2005)

Discrimination Age Discrimination















Of Working Age - A Seminar on Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Barriers to employment for marginalised mature age workers

Speech by Chris Kossen, Lecturer, University Southern Queensland 

Sociological PhD Research
Supervisor: Dr Roger Wilkinson
James Cook University (Cairns)

Please note - the text below is taken from a Powerpoint Presentation.
You can download a copy of the presentation as originally presented in PDF Document for DownloadPDF format.

Slide 1: Outline: Topics for discussion

  • Developments in labour market trends: impacts on mature age (or older) workers
  • Barriers to employment: (marginalised) mature age jobseekers

My research: including personal challenges faced by mature age workers participating in interview based research

Regional Queensland centre - Toowoomba

Slide 2: Age Discrimination in Employment

Appears to be a key issue of our times

  • Recessions, economic downturns
  • Reform, restructuring, downsizing
  • 1970s, 1980s & 1990s

Redundancies targeted older workers

However a long history exists over a century eg. USA (Segrave)

Slide 3: Early Redundancies based on:

Distorted/inaccurate perceptions by employers of older workers as:

  • slower & therefore less productive
  • more prone to accidents & illness
  • less trainable
  • less flexible
  • leave jobs sooner (closer to retirement)

Slide 4: Despite contrary productivity data

National & international research shows that productivity among mature age workers compares favourably to younger counterparts

  • Higher levels of accuracy (less error)
  • Less time off (sick)
  • Lower (staff) turnover
  • Loyalty & commitment: " work ethic "
  • etc .

Slide 5: Employments Prospects:

  • Gaining & maintaining
    • sufficient & secure employment
    • suitable / quality employment
  • Access to training & development
  • Opportunity: advancement & promotion

Mature age workers have been over-represented in unemployment statistics along with youth both are regarded as being non-prime age

Slide 6: Decade of change & growth

  • Strong jobs growth
    Large drop in (official) unemployment rate
  • Mature age workers no longer feature as a problem group in unemployment statistics

Considerable progress in combating ageism!

  • anti-discrim laws, education & awareness promotion .
  • changing Human Resource Mgt practices, tax incentives

Slide 7: Mature age more vulnerable to:

  • Hidden unemployment
    • Underemployment: casualisation of labour
      temp & contract labour
    • those ineligible to register unemployed welfare
  • Long-term unemployment

Marginalisation is contingent (many are far from being marginalised)

Slide 8: Major Research Theme

Problematic Transitions

  • Difficulty re-entering work & gaining comparable work - once displaced
  • Many leave secure work due to stress/ful environments (eg. subjected to bullying )
  • Shock : never had difficulty getting work
  • Some - regret leaving
  • Find their ' profile ' is not an ' easy ' fit

Slide 9: Confirmatory evidence from literature

Phenomenon: scarring of profile (ABS) eg. downsizing: city dairy factory workers

  • Profile: limited experience & education


  • Phenomenon: churning (ABS)
  • Cumulative disadvantage: s carring very long-term unemploy/separation

Slide 10: Common Financial Stressors Identified:

  • Children dependant longer (mid-20 ' s)
  • Divorce: depletion of wealth ( eg. house)
  • Child rearing later in life ( eg. 2 nd marriages)
  • Disrupted work: to care for ageing parents
  • Financial setbacks (business failure)

Growing need self-fund extended retirement

Slide 11: Some personal costs

  • Subsistence/frugal living: no coffee shops!
  • Poverty: use of assistance from charities
  • Depriving children

eg. fashion, McDonald ' s, sport, music .

  • Loss of confidence (parents & children)
  • Loss of "sense of purpose" despair
  • Isolation (cut-off), alienation, depression

Slide 12: Some findings of interest:

  • Pressures to be a " compliant worker "
  • Age & Resumes ( shaving off the years )
  • The " financially secure " vs " the poor "

 Beneficial Coping Strategies

  • Realising importance: to manage stress, motivation, etc .
  • Taking on meaningful activity eg. exercise
  • Ability to appreciate positive aspects of life

Slide 13: Some Key Aims

Explore ' traits ' among participants

  • Identify useful & unhelpful coping strategies

Phase 2: Participatory Action Research

  • Work collaboratively ' select ' participants to help develop higher levels of awareness about their life situation and
  • Assist them to plan & act more strategically in coping with their circumstances: reflective

Slide 14: Theories on stereotyping

Ideal Types Schutz (1970) Lakoff (1987)

Ease by which things are brought to mind


  • A Bird
  • A " Policeman " **
  • A " Male " Nurse
  • A " Female " Doctor

Slide 15: Dominant Deficit Model

Exaggerates decline

To construct dominant social understanding as:

  • less than " normal "
  • less than " full " = " substandard "
  • " incomplete "
  • " deficient "

Linguistically marked: " older " worker

Slide 16: Biased Mental Models

Distort: ' because there are valid grounds for supposing some workers.. ' (Harris 1991

Resist contradictory data: easier to accommodate contradictory data, than to revise established thinking structures

Self-fulfilling & Perpetuate: restricts opportunities for learning & development

  • effectively out-dating one ' s skill set

Slide 17: Health & Life Span Research supports:

Biology places limits on life-span but the social world also .

imposes limits on what is biologically possible .

In other words, society determines how long and in what manner the individual organism shall live "

(Berger & Luckmann 1966:202)

Last updated 18 May 2005.