Employers’ ageist preferences for hiring, training, and offering a permanent contract: The role of retirement age norms and age-related stereotypes

Social norms about the timing of retirement and stereotypes about qualities of younger and older workers are pervasive, but it is unclear how they relate to employers’ ageist preferences. This paper studies the effects of employers’ retirement age norms and age-related stereotypes on their preferences for younger or older workers in three types of employment practices: (1) hiring a new employee; (2) offering training; and (3) offering a permanent contract. Survey data from 960 Dutch employers from 2017 are analyzed to study their preferences for younger or older workers. Effects of organizations’ and managers’ characteristics, retirement age norms, and stereotypes are estimated with multinomial logistic regression analyses. Many employers have a strong preference for younger workers, especially when hiring a new employee, while
preferences for older workers are highly uncommon. Higher retirement age norms of employers are related to a lower preferences for younger workers in all employment decisions. When employers are more positive about older workers’ soft qualities (such as reliability and social skills), but not about their hard qualities (such as their physical capacity and willingness to learn), they rate older workers relatively more favourable for hiring and training, but not for providing a permanent contract.

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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