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Age discrimination in knowledge industries is madness

Age discrimination is daft. In knowledge industries it is madness.

Consider this: the average age of an Australian nurse is 45. 20 per cent of registered nurses in Australia are over 55. Although nursing is physically demanding, it is also intellectual. And it is highly responsible. Few workers in the IT business or PR industry have to deal with life and death issues every day.

A nurse needs brains and fitness. So how come nurses are able to do this well into their late 50s and yet people in the same age range can’t be trusted with moving noughts and ones around the inside of a computer or sending press releases to journalists?

Sure, human brains slow down as we age, but they also gain experience and wisdom.

Older workers have value

Older workers have much to offer. Maybe they can’t work through the night as much as youngsters or go on as many macho programming ‘death marches’. On the other hand, older workers are more reliable and stable.

Perhaps the silliest aspect of age discrimination is while the skills shortage is not pressing now, it hasn’t gone away. Many knowledge based industries are finding it hard to recruit enough youngsters, as older people drift away many won’t be capable of making a return if industry wakes up and decides it needs them any way.

Before you dismiss this as nonsense think back a decade or so. Can you remember how many older computer programmers were rapidly pressed into service during the y2k scare?

The telling feature of that experience was that many of the people who could have returned to clear up the y2k bugs refused to do so. Some were bitter about being dumped long before their expected retirement age, others had found life was so good without Cobol coding that nothing, not even pots of cash, could tempt them back.