CAREERS: Old story with ageist job ads - As the government considers introducing legislation to stop age discrimination in job ads, a new survey reveals companies are using coded messages to avoid stating age limits. Jane Bainbridge reports

There’s nothing worse than being made to feel old before your time, and job ads stating ’over-30s need not apply’, as prevalent in marketing as any other industry, can induce that sinking feeling faster than anything.

There’s nothing worse than being made to feel old before your time,

and job ads stating ’over-30s need not apply’, as prevalent in marketing

as any other industry, can induce that sinking feeling faster than

anything.



But a survey from Barkers Human Resources Advertising, analysing more

than 8000 display ads in the national quality press, shows that only 6%

of the ads stipulated an age limit. This compares with almost double

that number two years ago.



Back in the 80s, age limits would typically feature on between 30% and

42% of recruitment ads. So, although things are clearly improving for

mature candidates, and companies do avoid being explicit in their age

requirements, there is disturbing evidence they are adopting more

underhand tactics.



Nick Holker, research and planning director at Barkers, says that the

survey also reviewed the use of language to suggest a favoured age

band.



Typical phrases include: ’Don’t read this unless you want to join a

young team’; ’This is probably your second job’; and ’outstanding career

opportunity for a young, high-calibre individual hungry to succeed’.



’Most of these phrases send out a fairly clear message which will

present the greatest challenge of interpretation for any potential

legislation,’ says Holker.



And with the latest statistics suggesting that 40% of Britain’s work

force will be aged 45 and over by the year 2000, coupled with the

decline in availability of school leavers, the focus will have to shift

from putting off the mature applicants to attracting them.



’In the ten years to 1997, the number of men aged 40 to 64 and women

aged 40 to 59 classed as ’economically inactive’ rose by 79,000 to 4.2

million,’ says Richard Worsley, director of the Carnegie Third Age

Programme, which champions the role of older people. ’There is little

evidence of over-40s sharing the benefits of the biggest boom since the

80s.’



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