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Age discrimination may increase along with an aging population

Some knowledgeable observers believe that age discrimination is on a dramatic upswing and will continue in that direction with the increased aging of the national and worldwide population. One knowledgeable commentator asserts that once a person is thrown out of a job due to age discrimination, even if she is only around 50, she may find it next to impossible to find even a starting level job thereafter. Michigan law, like all other states, makes age discrimination in employment illegal.

It's likely that age discrimination is both a conscious and unconscious function of business in today's world. It is also likely more prevalent than we suspect, because the methods that companies use are hard to cipher out and identify as age-related. When a whole department is thinned out by eliminating all older workers over a certain age it appears to be normal downsizing but is actually a calculated way for the company to save perhaps millions in salaries and benefits by a discriminatory sleight of hand not easily seen for what it is.

With respect to economics, simple math moves the wheels of age discrimination. That math says that a manager at her peak, say at the age of 48, is deriving increasing fringe benefits and maximum salary levels. The company can save a big chunk of money by firing her and hiring a lower-paid, inexperienced worker in his twenties with very low benefits.

Those economic factors are generally in play in many companies nationally, including in Michigan. However, a society that practices age discrimination sacrifices some time-worn benefits that can come from a diverse mix of ages in the company's workforce. Employment discrimination is a short-sighted practice that may hamper the success of a company trying to cope with the challenges of a fast-changing twenty-first century. A company that cannot integrate a multi-cultured workforce and make it work economically may have already lost touch with the values that really fuel the ultimate success of an enterprise.

Source: San Diego Free Press, 50 Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted from Their Jobs -- and Denied New Opportunities, No author, Jan. 8, 2014

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