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]
In this article we explore the importance of ‘everyday discrimination’ and other psycho-social variables for psychological wellbeing, considering differences according to age, gender and socio-economic position. Using employee survey data collected within Australian organisations we explore a statistically reliable model of the relationship between aspects of the psycho-social work environment, psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction. The employee survey was carried out in two phases during mid-2007 and mid-2008 in a national university, two international freight terminals of a large international airline, a national manufacturing company and the roadside assistance division of a motoring organisation. Structural Equation Modelling was used to configure a model including psycho-social factors: respect, support, training, job insecurity and personally meaningful work. Everyday discrimination and consultation with supervisor were considered in terms of their direct effect on psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction and their indirect effect via the psycho-social factors enumerated above. Importantly, this generalised model attempts to describe the interrelations of these factors effectively for various age groups, gender and socio-economic position. We identify age, gender and socio-economic differences in the strength and relative importance of these relationships. A further validation study with an independent sample will be required to verify the model proposed in this article. The implications for the design of workplace interventions concerned with age discrimination are discussed.