Middle-aged adults, in their 40s and 50s, are often referred to as the sandwich generation because of the stage of life they are in. They are parents to kids who need their support to complete their education and also have old parents of their own who need their care and attention. If such individuals lose their job in their 50s, they often find it difficult to land another one. Why is that so?
During a downsizing exercise, it is more often those who fall in the 40-50 age bracket who are asked to leave first. As per recent data from Rest Less, a digital community of those over 50, in the UK, 407,000 people are over 50 and unemployed. This group accounts for about 24 per cent of the total unemployed population in the UK. According to the same data, people over the age of 50 in the UK are twice more likely to not get employed. It may take them at least two years to find a suitable job.
As per an industry survey conducted by AARP — a renowned interest group in the US focusing on issues affecting people over the age of 50 — about 44 per cent of people in the 40-65 age bracket fear being rendered jobless because of their age. Amongst the ones who were part of the survey, 56 per cent were unemployed.
“I have witnessed the ‘reduction of average age of the organisation’ being discussed as part of boardroom meetings”
Sunil Singh, CHRO, Stellar Value Chain
If one browses through social-media feeds, one will come across many such posts from people in their 40s and 50s that suggest that they are struggling and desperate for a job. This is turning into a big social problem in our country.
As per Sunil Singh, CHRO, Stellar Value Chain, he started to notice this problem during 2010. Organisations were in a rush to make their workforce young. “I have witnessed the ‘reduction of average age of the organisation’ being discussed as part of boardroom meetings,” says Singh.
Many of the HR leaders state that the emergence of startups and new digital businesses that like to keep their workforces young may be boosting this problem of ageism in the corporate world.
Kamlesh Dangi, CHRO, Incred Financial Services, also agrees that organisations in India do discriminate on the basis of age, while hiring people.
“Various myths, such as the older generations not being good culture fits or being more committed to family responsibilities than professional work, or being unable to devote time to organisational goals, even demanding higher remuneration, exists in the Indian corporate system,” says Dangi.
However, he advises that such talent should not be wasted and that recruiters should not be blinded by such myths. Citing an example from his own company, he recalls how he hired a person above 40 for the Jaipur team, who had never worked in a digital or a fintech environment. “We took a bet on him as he knew the business and how it works. Other things can be easily acquired,” points out Dangi.
As per industry experts, such people may find it difficult to land a job immediately. It might take at least a year for them in an environment where young people get jobs much faster. But they should not lose hope.
“Various myths, such as the older generations not being good culture fits or being more committed to family responsibilities than professional work, or being unable to devote time to organisational goals, even demanding higher remuneration, exists in the Indian corporate system”
Kamlesh Dangi, CHRO, Incred Financial Services
“Organisations are definitely to blame for it but not more than our own selves. So instead of cursing others, people should focus on uplifting themselves, by getting trained or acquiring skills in new digital areas and understanding that environment,” says Singh.
Passion and opportunities
When one is unable to find a relevant opportunity, it is better to build a career around one’s passion. People often spend years without being able to do or pursue something they planned to or desired to. Such a situation may prove to be a blessing and an opportunity to devote time to one’s passion and build upon it.
As per Dangi, if need be, people can also consider a career change at this point. They can explore new, emerging and in-demand opportunities. They can look to train themselves in those areas and land suitable jobs.
Acceptance vs stubbornness
As such, people in the 40 to 50 age bracket are expensive. They should settle for what the industry is offering them instead of being stubborn about what they expect.
Emmanuel David, former director, Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC), shares an instance from his professional career, where a colleague was on the edge of losing his job. The leaders were not happy with his work, and therefore, David advised him to look for other opportunities. He got one offer but the compensation was less than his expectation. At that point, he was earning Rs 45 lakhs per annum, while the new company was offering only Rs 41 lakhs. The concerned colleague was stubborn and refused to settle for a lesser salary, but David asked him to accept the offer, warning him that if he let that offer go, he would find himself in a tough situation.
“Such experienced professionals can be stubborn with their compensation at times. Not realising that it is better to accept what the industry offers and move on”
Emmanuel David, former director, Tata Management Training Centre
“At times, such people can get stuck on certain things, not realising that it is better to accept what the industry offers and move on,” says David.
Consultancy and advisory
As experienced professionals, those in their 40s and 50s have the option of starting their own consultancy services and work on a freelance basis, because wisdom coupled with experience is something that organisations always welcome. Companies may also hire them as advisors or consultants on a term basis, even while they continue to look for full-time opportunities.