Age Diversity: From discrimination to strategic business development

Although Europe’s working-age population is shrinking while the 60+ age group is increasing by about two million people per year, only 37% of companies find it ‘fairly important’ to take into account the needs of older consumers when developing products and services directly aimed at them, an internal survey by CSR Europe found. A new survey suggests that age-related discrimination may well be one factor leading to such significant disconnect.
A British study has just confirmed that age-related discrimination and stereotypes are firmly embedded in British society while their scope varies. According to the research project ‘Attitude to Age in Britain 2010-11’ carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions, Britain’s ageing population poses a real challenge on the country’s future social and economic strategy. The results, that are based on an opinion survey involving 2,000 nationally representative respondents, show that the perception of ‘youth’ ends at the age of 41, and ‘old age’ starts at 59. 80% of respondents reported that age discrimination is ‘fairly or very serious’ and 34% reported that they had been shown some age-based prejudice in the last year. The figures must be evaluated against the backdrop of current statistics: As of January 2012, according to UK’s government figures, there are more than 885,000 people aged 65 and above still working either full-time or part-time. A number high enough – and likely to rise in the coming years – to serve as a wake-up call for public and private stakeholders to rethink existing frameworks for age diversity.
In order to remain sustainably competitive, European companies must successfully gear their employment and HR policies towards an ageing workforce, and B2C sectors must develop more innovative products and services for increasing numbers of older customers. These headlines are as common as pro-active implementation is scarce. A new venture co-ordinated by CSR-Europe will therefore analyse and develop concrete approaches within the collaborative project ‘The Business Contribution to Active Ageing. Active Ageing in Employment and Products & Services’. The one-year initiative is jointly led by GDF Suez, Intel, Johnson & Johnson and AGE Platform Europe, and is in line with the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).