Companies don't want elderly or even middle-aged employees. Even if they are selected, they aren't provided equal opportunities for growth and training compared to younger employees," laments 62-year-old KCV Georgie, a consultant with Vidya, an NGO based in Delhi. After running his father-in-law's business , Georgie started looking for a job that would earn him a comfortable salary and keep him busy. But at the ripe age of 55, opportunities were hard to come by.

You may empathise with Georgie or find yourself on the other extreme of the age debate. Perhaps you are too young and find people at work gang up against you. In both cases, employees are suffering little-known age discrimination.

The concept has not grabbed attention in India yet. But it is likely to bother employees, especially the older gang, as the workforce faces an oversupply of young people. Such discrimination presents some recruitment challenges but mostly manifests itself in life at work. 

Age is Not Just a Number

"It isn't discrimination but companies do specify an age group while outlining the job description for a post," says Sunil Goel, director ofGlobalHunt, an executive search firm. He insists the importance attached to age varies from one industry to another. 

Companies dealing with the public sector and government authorities prefer older, experienced professionals. Whereas, new age businesses like IT, Telecom, BPOs, financial services go for young blood. "But I see 80% of my customers inclining towards younger talent," says Goel. Human resource managers claim it is competency not age which counts in recruitment. 

When a company outlines an age bracket for a job profile, it is not strict about the range. Say a company is looking for a vice-president, it may ask the headhunter to look for people between 40 and 45 years. But a 38-year-old or a 47-year-old would also be accepted, provided he/she possesses the necessary skills. 

"We have no pre-determined factors and recruit those who fit the role best. When we outline an age-bracket, that is for the experience that a particular position demands," says Piyush Mehta, senior vice president, human resources at Genpact. 

If you feel you are at the receiving end of discriminatory employers, there are no codified laws, national or local, for recourse. Your counterparts in the United States, however, are protected by a strong law: TheAge Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) which protects individuals over 40 years against age discrimination. In fact, employees in the US are not expected to state their date of birth on their resume. 

Headhunters believe companies prefer younger people today because of their high energy and low cost. "There's always a play between experience and competency. But age specifications are usually soft guidelines rather than hard rules," says Uday Chawla, managing partner of Transearch India, an international headhunting firm. 

Young and Restless

But don't think the young escape age-related bias. While working with a leading management consultancy as a content developer, 22-year-old Priyanka Arora was constantly told by her seniors how lucky she was to have landed such a well paying and respectable position at her age. In her bid to shed the tag of 'providence', she started working harder. "I made myself susceptible to exploitation. It eventually led to a burnout," says Arora.

Article from Economist Times