Age Discrimination at the Level of Task Allocation

  • Michel Nicolas Wirth

With the help of a vignette study, this paper investigates the question whether discrimination against older workers exists at the level of task allocation. Whereas the literature has so far almost exclusively focused on the hiring process, I analyze the effect of the age of the employee, the age of the employer, the type of task, the provision of training to older employees and the absentee rate on the propensity to assign tasks to older workers. For the maintenance and enhancement of their employability it is pivotal for workers to be allocated to tasks as it allows them to acquire new skills and keep their current skills updated.
My results show that workers who are between 56 and 65 years old are 11%-points less likely to be allocated to a task than their 26 to 35 year old counterparts. I further find that the probability to be assigned to a task for workers who are between 56 and 65 years old does not differ with the type of task. Moreover, my research shows that the age of the employer has no significant impact on the propensity to allocate tasks to younger or older workers. I finally find that the provision of training to older employees and the absentee rate do play a role: employers who in general provide more training to their older employees and who experience higher absentee rates are more likely to assign tasks to older workers.
My results indicate that discrimination against older workers is widely spread among employers and that there is a need to actively counter the discrimination by government action. I suggest the funding of programs which raise the awareness of employers for comparative advantages of older employees and which finance training for older workers in their respective companies. The employability of older workers could thereby be enhanced for the benefit of both the company and the worker.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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