Internalised and gendered ageism and disableism and its consequences for labour market participation of older workers: a mixed method study

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of Social Pol Sociology & Social Res

Abstract

An important public policy goal is to extend the working lives of older workers by encouraging them to delay retirement. Research has indicated that in addition to experiencing direct age discrimination individuals internalise stereotypes about older people and older workers. When they are themselves older, they may exclude themselves from work situations or career opportunities. Examples of stereotypes include that older workers are less productive and less motivated at work, though at the same time more experienced and wiser. Much of the interpretation of what it means to be older is related to decline and as being less 'able' than younger workers. However, the study of disableism and ageism have largely developed in separation from each other. This project aims to assess the overlap between the two to deepen our understanding and enable the effects of ageism to be tackled more successfully.

Moreover, internalised ageism is hypothesized as related to self-exclusion from the labour market and development opportunities within work. Therefore, internalised ageism may severely hinder the policy goal of extended working lives. By investigating the relationship between internalised ageism and disableism and self-exclusion this project will investigate the extent to which in addition to discrimination where older workers are excluded by others, older workers may also exclude *themselves*. It is also important to take gender differences into account as men and women have different labour market histories and because research has shown that both ageism and disableism are gendered.

This project is innovative in that it will assess these relationships by analysing both quantitative and qualitative data. The qualitative dataset allows an exploration of how individuals themselves describe their future working and retirement plans based on internalised ageism and disableism. The quantitative data will help generalise the findings of the qualitative data as well as testing specific relationships between the variables of interest, such as age, health, disability and gender.

This research will improve our understanding of how ageism and disableism are related to one another and how it affects self-exclusion. Therefore it will give indications for interventions to increase the labour market participation of older workers and it will suggest which stereotypes are especially detrimental for their employment. The project will involve stakeholders from business and the charitable sectors to work through the implications of this study to produce practical interventions. It is an important aim to ensure that the knowledge generated from this project will not be limited to academic audiences, but will be widely distributed through practitioner and public networks.

The proposal speaks to two of the ESRC's strategic priorities: productivity and to a lesser extent mental health. The role of the older workforce is acknowledged in the Industrial Strategy (HM Government, 2017) and encouraging older workers to engage in retraining, lifelong learning and delay retirement will have an impact on skills shortages and productivity. Discrimination is known to be a stressor that can impact upon mental health (Pascoe and Richman, 2009) a better understanding of internalised ageism and disableism can shed light on these issues and point towards interventions for ameliorating the impacts of discrimination.

Planned Impact

A variety of groups are expected to benefit from this research. There is much public discussion of older workers as well as workers with a disability. The "Fuller Working Lives" document states that "[t]here are almost one million individuals aged 50-64 that are not in employment but state that they are willing or would like to work." (DWP, 2017a: p. 7); see also the "Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper" and the "Industrial Strategy" (DWP & DH, 2016; HM Government, 2017). It is expected that the research will have an impact on three groups (in addition to its academic impact): policy makers, practitioners and older people themselves. The key task is to build awareness of the research amongst these stakeholders from the start. Allowance has been built into the researchers' allocated time in order that there is sufficient space for the impact generating activities.

POLICYMAKERS: Government is committed to keeping older workers as well as people with an impairment in employment. The Age UK response to the Improving Lives Green Paper suggests "As people with a disability get older, they become increasingly less likely to move back into employment, making it clear that age is an additional barrier to finding work. It is therefore important that the Government strategy for helping disability includes measures to tackle age-related barriers to work." (Brooks, 2017: p. 2). This research directly looks at the overlap between ageism and disableism and how this relates to individuals excluding themselves from social situations including paid work. This project will provide new insights which policymakers can take into account when trying to encourage older workers and people with an impairment in employment. The PI has established relationships with stakeholders in DWP and ACAS and will use these to increase awareness of the research and to reach out to other potentially interested stakeholders in BEIS, DH and the Government Equalities Office in the Department for Education.

PRACTITIONERS: Improved understanding of internalised (gendered) ageism and disableism as related to self-exclusion from paid work and development opportunities within work will be significant for practitioners in their recruitment and management of older workers. Since 2016 the Business in the Community (BiTC) Age at Work Leadership Team, led by Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Life, has been the key partnership mechanism for delivery of the Government's Fuller Working Lives Strategy, the project will keep in regular touch with BiTC and seek to feed into their outreach activity with businesses. Mary Bright who works with Andy Briggs at Aviva is on the Advisory Board for the project. In addition to employers, those advising or helping older workers, such as occupational health practitioners within organisations, GPs, Jobcentre Plus staff, and others may become more aware of their own internalised stereotypes, the internalised stereotypes of their clients, and thus be better able to actively try to combat these. This could improve support for the clients and the employability of older people in the long-term.

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY AND OLDER PEOPLE: Tackling age and ability stereotypes will benefit the employment opportunities for older workers and individuals with a disability. Many who are currently not employed would like to be. Knowing more about the interplay between experienced ageism and disableism with internalised ageism and disableism may lead to new and creative ways to tackle them. This has the potential for a positive impact on the wider society. The project team will keep in contact and brief a number of third sector advocacy groups working in this field including Age UK, EHRC, Centre for Ageing Better, ILC-UK and Angela Watson from New Middle Age is on the Advisory Board.
The 'Pathways to Impact' details how we will reach these groups and the role of the Advisory Board.

Publications

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Title Virtual policy event: The overlap between ageism and ableism in the workplace 
Description You tube edited recording ofa virtual policy event. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Releasing the recording reaches a larger audience than the original webinar was able to do 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXE9H8eDD6o&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Blog on Ageing Issues the British Society of Gerontology Blog: "Trapped in an extending working life" by mariska van der Horst, David Lain and Sarah Vickerstaff
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ageingissues.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/trapped-in-an-extending-working-life/
 
Description Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Mariska van der Horst presented a paper: "To What Degree is Ageism Actually Disableism" to the European Sociologial Association conference in Manchester, August 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Mariska van der Horst presented on 'Internalised Ageism' at the British Society of Gerontology, Liverpool, July 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Mariska van der Horst was a panel member for a webinar on Ageism, ableism and the coronavirus, organised by ILC-UK. Thursday July 9, 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Panel webinar organised by ILC-UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ilcuk.org.uk/webinar-ageism-ableism-and-the-coronavirus/
 
Description Online symposium 'Organisational Influences on Extended Working Lives',organised by the British Society of Gerontology Work and Retirement Special Interest Group. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Sarah Vickerstaff gave a presentation to the symposium on "'Talk' about age in different worksettings"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Organised and Chaired a Symposium: "Ageism at Work" at the Gerontological Society of America Annual conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The symposium brought together researchers from different discplines and different countries (the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA) to present new research on ageism at work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Panel discussion for International Women's Day on "Ageism: A Feminist Issue?" held in Amsterdam, March 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Mariska van der Horst was invited to join the pain as an expert on ageism. The rest of the panel were not academics but creatives and professional women. It helped to raise ageism as an issue that affects women in specific ways.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.eventbrite.com/e/international-womens-day-2020-creating-her-next-decade-tickets-97573995...
 
Description Presentation: "Internalised and gendered ageism: Older workers narratives about age" in a symposium at the Gerontological Society of America annual conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A reserch paper given as part of an international symposium on Ageism at Work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Report in Forbes magazine on this research project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The journalist from Forbes attended a presentation of our research results at the Gerontological Society of America and asked if she could write an article about it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.forbes.com/sites/sheilacallaham/2019/11/25/researchers-show-how-internalized-age-stereot...
 
Description Research paper: "Training at Work: The impact of internalised ageism" delivered at Gerontological Society of America annual conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The presentation was part of an international symposium on Training adults and lifelong learning
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The overlap between ageism and ableism in the workplace: Insights for occupational health and training. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Virtual policy event
The research findings were outlined showing the perceptions of ageism and ableism among older workers and their managers and the impact these have on future plans for work. Much of the interpretation of what it means to be older is shaped by concepts of decline and disability. Ageism and ableism have largely been studied separately, a gap that this research project has addressed. The work highlights:
The links between ageism and ableism, and the extent to which much ageism is in fact ableism;
How occupational health can play a role in managing health in the context of an ageing workforce;
The role that internalised ageism plays in shaping training and professional development.
Following a short presentation there were two rounds of breakout groups in which partcipants were able to discuss the implications of the findings, first for training and development in organisations and second for occupational health and older workers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://ilcuk.org.uk/ilc-virtual-policy-event-the-overlap-between-ageism-and-ableism-in-the-workplac...