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Ageism - the last tabboo?

Agency expert Des Mclaughlin, MD at Mac-D Consulting, says age is just a number.


The meetings and events industry, in my view, has largely been a forward-thinking one in terms of inclusiveness and embracing diversity. In my experience (admittedly that of a white British male) sexuality and gender have not been the issues that they have in some other industries and we have long welcomed people from different cultures and countries into our agencies.

Our industry, though, largely remains one that courts youth over experience. We are not alone in this and according to the job listing site CV Library, a third of workers say they have been rejected for a job because of their age, and more than half of workers aged over 55 say they have been discriminated against unfairly because of their age.

The average Briton today is aged 40 and within three years one in three of the working age population will be 50 or older. By 2030 half of adults will be 50 or older. With people having to work until 68 in the future to receive the state pension there are obvious recruitment opportunities within this age demographic.

Combine this with the fact that employment in the UK is at a record high and current talks around Brexit make it seem likely that we will have a significant reduction in the amount of foreign workers entering the UK, both clear issues that will negatively affect recruitment for meetings and events agencies more than most. One wonders, therefore, how much longer companies can continue to ignore our older pool of workers.

Employers such as Barclays, Aviva Atos, Mercer, and the Co-Operative Group have pledged to increase the number of older staff by 12% within 5 years and publish details of how many staff they employ over the age of 50.

I think it takes a commitment like this to change attitudes, rather than merely paying lip service to the problem and I would welcome companies in our sector taking similar action. I believe it’s not just about doing the right thing and truly being an equal opportunities employer, but it’s also essential if we are to solve the looming recruitment problem that awaits businesses.