Older Workers: Can They Succeed In the Job Market?

Objectives: To identify and track the progress of mature age workers who have overcome barriers associated with their age. To identify factors contributing to successful employment outcomes for older workers. To evaluate the success rate of service providers in facilitating access to the labour market for older workers.
Methods: Three job network providers were approached: Mission Employment, Salvation Army Employment Plus and Work Ventures Inc. All three agreed to provide addresses of clients aged 45 years and over to be reached through a mail questionnaire. A total of 700 questionnaires were dispatched anonymously with the cooperation of these three organizations. A small number of follow?up interviews were also conducted with survey respondents who indicated their willingness to be interviewed, and had signed a consent form for this purpose. Several interviews were also conducted with staff at the three cooperating agencies.

Results: Of the 700 questionnaires dispatched, 163 were returned, giving a response rate of 23%. Among the respondents, 82 were employed at the time and 81 were unemployed. There were approximately equal responses from men and women. Of the 82 employed persons, 48 had obtained jobs either through answering advertisements or through personal contacts. Only 19 had obtained employment through a job network agency. The most important barrier to employment was identified as age, followed by lack of specialized skills.

Conclusions: Early intervention is essential. The chances of re?employment decline steadily with the duration of unemployment. Age discrimination stands out as the major obstacle to re?employment for older workers. Personal connections and specialized skills are more important than the activities of job network agencies. Job seekers are also handicapped by inflexibility in relation to training, travel to new locations, and acceptance of a different kind of job.