The long-awaited Act to Promote the Employment of Middle-aged and Senior Workers (中高齡及高齡者就業促進法) cleared the Legislative Yuan on Friday last week, addressing a crucial issue as Taiwan continues its shift toward a super-aged society.
A Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics report last month showed that the average age of employees in the nation hit a high at the end of last year, reflecting the nation’s aging population. The bill received support from legislators across party lines, showing its imminent need in today’s society.
In addition to senior workers (those aged 65 and older), it is important to include people aged 45 to 64, as middle-aged workers often face discrimination in seeking employment, or are forced to retire early so that cheaper new hires can replace them.
A survey released last month by online job bank yes123 indicated that nearly 80 percent of workers aged 40 and older have experienced age discrimination at work, while nearly 84 percent believe that employers factor in age when hiring.
Many 45 to 64-year-olds who quit their jobs to take care of aging parents, or lost employment due to downsizing and other issues, find it difficult to return to the workplace due to age discrimination and end up taking menial jobs that do not match their experience and skills. They often have children to support, and many end up in borderline poverty, despite having worked much of their adulthood lives.
Being employed at the same company for 20 to 30 years is a concept of the past and young people today might continue to seek new challenges throughout their working lives, especially if they do not have children to care for.
However, companies need to comply with the regulations. They will try to find loopholes in the act and bigger companies will not be deterred by fines of NT$300,000 to NT$1.5 million (US$9,833 to US$49,166).
Job applicants also need to be willing to take action — gathering evidence and filing a complaint — if they feel they have been discriminated against.
Using subsidies, positive reinforcement and concrete methods to support job seekers and potential employers works better than punishment — with the act, all are being applied.
The role of older people in companies should be explored further. Companies should not hire them only to relegate them to a role that younger people do not want. Some older hires might not be as tech-savvy and energetic as their younger colleagues, but their experience and know-how will benefit employers.
For example, company programs could link up employees of various ages so that their experience and skills complement and help each other. Having people of various ages interact and learn from each other will go further toward eliminating the problem of age discrimination.
Societal attitudes need to change — many families continue to think that it is shameful if older relatives continue to work, believing instead that they should be at home enjoying their old age. Others are afraid that people will view them as bad children if their parents work.
However, whether they need to work or not, people aged 65 and older still have much to offer, and an increasing number want to stay active and earn their own money, instead of relying on others.
As society continues to age, their choosing to remain in the workforce should be seen as a positive thing.
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