Unemployment rate in Switzerland: too old to work at 50?

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Official statistics published in February 2016 dealing with the unemployment rate in Switzerland show that over the last year unemployment of people aged between 50 and 64 years has increased significantly more than the 25-49 age group.

Whilst the 50plus person is a dream target for companies selling holidays, second homes and insurance policies, employers in Switzerland seem to be overlooking this age group when recruiting new staff. Should we all be concerned?

Whilst other countries have laws prohibiting age discrimination, Swiss practice still ensures that most candidates indicate their age on their CV. And for those candidates hoping to avoid it, the need to provide employment certificates from previous jobs means that the date of birth is immediately apparent. So, in Switzerland at least, there is no way of getting around the age issue.

And whilst few companies will openly acknowledge to candidates that age was the deciding factor, my experience indicates that it has a significant impact on the process. After all, it takes a large amount of confidence and self-belief to employ a team member who has more experience than the line manager. Perhaps there is also the fear that a more senior person won’t fit in with the younger team members. Or maybe employers are reluctant to offer a lower salary to a candidate (even when the candidate is happy to accept it). As a recruiter/career coach I have heard all of the above reasons implied for not employing highly qualified but slightly older candidates.

So as a hiring manager what can you do?

Clearly the responsibility for remaining employable with relevant skills, experience and flexibility for an ever evolving job market lies with the individual. However, this alone will not change the current situation in Switzerland.

  • Practice Diversity

Increasingly organizations talk about the benefits of having a diverse workforce: leveraging workplace diversity is seen as a vital strategic resource for competitive advantage. But do you understand that diversity extends to age as well? Make sure that your deciding factors in the selection process are skills and experience, not age.

  • Embrace experience

Experience brings with it added value: the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. When I look back at my past failures, I know that I won’t make the same mistakes twice. Listening and learning from people who have “been there” can have a significant impact on productivity and efficiency. As a hiring manager, don’t be overwhelmed by someone’s experience – know that making use of it can have a positive impact on your own and the organization’s performance.

  • Understand motivation

As we get older, typically around the 50plus mark, our priorities often change. The burning desire and drive to succeed at all costs may decline and we often discover a need to make a difference. We look to transfer our knowledge and experience to others so that they can also benefit from our wisdom. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why candidates in the 50plus age group are happy to take on roles and responsibilities which may, to the external eye, appear too junior for them. Take time to understand the motivation of the candidate. Don’t assume that you know what is best for them.

  • Have an impact

Time and tide wait for no man (or woman). If you, for whatever reason, are reluctant to hire 50plus workers now, do remember that you will fall into this category yourself one day. Keep an open mind. Acknowledge the benefits a more open selection policy can bring. Any step you take now to change discrimination against the 50plus worker will help you personally in the future.

You may argue that the cut off for employability is a little older, perhaps 54 or 57 years. Or perhaps there is a difference for male or female candidates. Or even within industries or across functions. This may be the case. But let’s not allow these details to distract from the main argument: age is a deciding factor in recruitment decisions in Switzerland.

I challenge you to take a second look at the files of highly qualified candidates that have been put to one side for age-related issues. Start focusing on the positives they can bring to the organization. Embrace diversity now and, in doing so, make a difference.

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2 Comments

  1. Darren on September 8, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Great article Julie. I am hoping that most, if not all, hiring managers in Switzerland will also read, digest, and take your suggestions on board.

  2. Jean on April 19, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Real reason is mainly politic.
    LPP from 25 to 34: 7%
    LPP from 55 to 65: 18%
    If our politicians do not change this very quickly, the problem will persist and Switzerland will lose the experience accumulated by the older people and, consequently, loose its competitiveness.
    One learn by making mistakes, but it would be much more efficient to learn from other people’s mistakes. Experience IS an asset.
    Most Companies are considering older people as a cost, not as an investment.
    They are wrong!

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