Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Is This Ageism?

I belong to several Internet groups on various issues.  Some of them allow job announcements and announcements about scholarships and prizes.  Many of those specify that the applicant must be young.

Now compare that common practice today to the 1960s custom of listing available jobs separately for men and women.

The differences are obvious, of course. 

There really aren't scholarships or jobs which require people to be older.  There are some which require educational qualifications or experience that would exclude, say, an eighteen-year-old, just because those qualifications take so long to acquire.  But in principle a qualified teenager could apply for those jobs.

That's not the case for a forty-year-old starting again (after, say, divorce and years of having been a stay-at-home parent) who would like to apply for one of those Jugend Arbeit posts.

Another difference is that the sex segregated job announcements of the 1960s reserved the best jobs for men and put a fence around those. 

The current age-segregated announcements offer one group of people (the young) jobs which we all assume the older applicants wouldn't want, because we tend to think that they are already far along a successful career path, earning much higher salaries than those the young are now offered.

But in reality many middle aged people have crashed careers, none or work in dead-end jobs.  Some have gone back to college and would now be qualified for jobs which define the desired applicant as someone at most three years from college graduation.  But they are not qualified for jobs which require one to be under twenty-five, say.

So is this practice ageist?  Interestingly, I haven't noticed progressive or feminists think so! 

I  think that we simply don't see anything odd in the fact that some jobs and awards are offered only to people in certain age categories, because the age categories that are selected appear obviously the ones where people still need help and support to get launched.  Still, requiring age as a qualification in this context rules out all applicants who are not young enough, but need a relaunch or the first launch of their careers or education.
Picture from my archives.