Both Germany and the UK are experiencing substantial ageing of their workforces and, simultaneously, their workforces are shrinking. At the same time it is important to note that older workers, particularly men, have been regarded by employers and policy makers as a reserve labour army in the past in both countries (Naegele and Walker, 2002a). Older workers have been confronted with numerous forms of direct and indirect discrimination in both the workplace and in the labour market in general. The result has been long-term unemployment and non-employment among older workers. Employment rates of older workers in both countries have declined dramatically over the past twenty years, although significant differences between the United Kingdom and Germany can be observed (Walker, 2002a). Low labour market participation rates are mainly due to early retirement schemes in Germany, which have been implemented in past decades (Naschold et aI., 1994; Ebbinghaus, 2001) and due to usage of occupational pension schemes, disability benefits as quasi-early retirement, early retirement schemes and discouragement from staying in work in the UK (Taylor and Walker, 1996; Taylor and Unwin, 1999). Although early exit pathways have been terminated or their scope limited and there is an increasing emphasis on prolonging working life, the legacy in terms of promoting negative views of older workers is persistent. [Introduction]
Job opportunities for older workers in the residential care sector are strong so there appears to be little age discrimination against them in recruitment, but it has been recognised that in the workplace age- and gender-based stereotyping challenges the efficacy of age management and generates intergenerational issues. This article focuses on the ageing of the female-dominated workforce in an Australian residential care organisation. Firstly, it argues age-based discriminatory practices are not only directed towards older workers but may also affect younger workers. Secondly, it argues older workers are not only the victims of discrimination but may discriminate against both younger and older co-workers. In doing so, they may draw on perceptions of age, gender and other attributes, including skills, qualifications and status in the organisational hierarchy. The potential policy implications of this complexity of age prejudices in terms of labour shortages and inclusive management practices are briefly discussed.