A Discursive Analysis of Ageism and Older Worker Identity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: Business School


In October 2006, age discrimination in employment was outlawed in the UK, serving as a timely reminder of the economic, political and social implications of an ageing demographic. Whilst large survey-based research has examined the incidence of age inequalities in employment, this research explores the production of discrimination at a local level, investigating how managers come to understand the meaning of the terms ‘ageism’, ‘age discrimination’ and ‘older worker’ within an organizational setting, and how larger socially embedded assumptions about age and growing older are used to marginalise the older worker.

Instead of managers relying on negative stereotypes or beliefs, the study explores the range of practices used to justify covert inequality, such as 'common sense' differentiations between the young and old in terms of their ability, personality and career aspirations. By using arguments based on logic or rationality, 'difference' between older workers and the rest of the workforce may be normalised, limiting the potential for workers to choose how they wish to work in their later lives.  

The findings of the study aim to develop our knowledge in academia and inform policy by enhancing our understanding of why age discrimination exists despite the short labour supply within the UK.


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