At the end of last year, an incident that happened in the Netherlands made a stir: Emile Ratelband, a well-known Dutch speaker who almost aged 70, applied to the court to change his age, hoping to make himself “young” for 20 years old. One of the reasons is that he wants to have more job opportunities. The inconvenience caused by age in employment happens in every country. It also becomes a major obstacle for older people to re-enter the workplace. The case of Emile Ratelband is just the tip of the iceberg.
Ms. Liu, who is now over 50 years old, has recently encountered similar problems during her job search. Ms. Liu has worked as a marketing manager for a travelling agency. She has more than 10 years of work experience. In 2006, the travel agency closed down and her son was young, she decided to be a full-time housewife, and be responsible for the whole family’s daily living. After more than ten years of time, the children are able to take care of themselves, and Ms. Liu has raised the idea of back to the workplace.
“When you are a housewife, you only have expenditure. If you work, you can make some money and that is a good thing. Now my children grow up and they can take care of themselves. This makes me want to work again.” Ms. Liu said, “But when I search for jobs, I saw a lot of job advertisements listing “welcome fresh graduates”. It feels like the society “filtered” us who want to go back to workplace. There are only jobs like cashiers, waiters and sales for us to choose. There are not much office jobs are hiring. I do not have the opportunity to even use my professional skills. “
The purpose of working is more than just earning for living, it also enables the workers to be connected to the society, not feeling lonely or disconnected. It is a pity that many employers have always been skeptical about the older employees that they are weak in their strengths and their abilities getting worse. In particular, older employees such as Ms. Liu who re-entered the workplace are subject to exclusions. Employers believe that they have an employment gap, leading to a lower ability to work, slower speed, and more difficult to learn new skills and adapt to the new working environment.
“I have educational qualifications and I have been in management level. I believe that I have the ability to do a good job, but I have not been doing it for many years. I have worried about adapting to the new working environment. Sometimes I would think if I did not have a child at that time, I would not have such employment gap;” Ms. Liu is currently working as at the Social Enterprise Research Academy. She also frankly said that sometimes her emotions fluctuates and she felt working pressure.
In addition to the age factor, when Ms. Liu first returned to the workplace, she often thought of the houseworks, and she was afraid that the two children are not studying hard. But she said with a wide grin that there would be no one looking after her son when she is at work and her son is very happy about that. Her husband worried that she could not bare the hard work and suggested her to stay as a full time housewife. She said that these thoughts often come out during work, just like back then when she first knew she was employed.
Under these circumstances, the trust of employers becomes especially important to them. From the perspective of management, trust is the beginning of cooperation, which enables everyone to feel their own value to others and their meaning to themselves, so as to satisfy their spiritual needs and to show self-worth, so that employees can be courageous to overcome current problems.
According to the Census and Statistics Department’s “Thematic Household Survey Report No. 56”, there are more than 630,000 housewives in Hong Kong. The number has risen from the 25-34 age group, which means that many housewives are still young. 76.5% of women who left the workplace to become housewives said that the reason of leaving the work is related to the housework and that freedom of choice between family and work was limited.
In the survey, about 77% of people have worked and left the previous job for an average of 10 years. Nearly 83% of the respondents have a relatively negative attitude towards full-time or part-time work. Among them, 68% explained that they have to deal with the houseworks. 34% of them said they had to take care of other family members This is the reason why Ms. Liu left the job at that time. It is also a major concern for re-entering the workplace.
Facing these challenges, the society needs to take active actions to formulate long-term strategies and specific measures to remove barriers for the elderly to participate in the labor market. As a member of the public, we should remove the prejudice and stereotypes towards the older employees. In fact, with the advancement of medicine, the physical fitness of older people may not be as weak as imagined. On the contrary, if they regain their energy, the society and employers should express their tolerance and test their abilities through work instead of relying solely on age.
As the largest employer in Hong Kong, the Government may take the lead in adopting an age-appropriate employment policy. For example, the establishment of this type of position in the government department as a pilot scheme to accumulate experience for the employment model of older employees, and promote that in order to encourage government contractors, statutory bodies, public utilities and private institutions to follow it.
The Social Enterprise Research Academy follows strictly the concept of social care and has always been willing to hire people to return to workplace. Recently, the Academy is hiring customer service assistants and data collectors. We welcome those who intend to return to the workplace to apply for the job. Please email your CV to [email protected].