Legislation fails to halt Dutch ageism epidemic

Oct 16 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

While the Netherlands is often thought of as a haven for tolerance, it seems that sadly even they suffer from some of the workplace ills that afflict most other countries.

Data from the Dutch Committee for Equal Treatment (CGB) and the results of a study from the Royal University of Utrecht on age discrimination has shown that the mid-40s is now viewed as the new 65 Ė without the retirement benefits.

For example, the CGB reveals that in 2006, 219 of 694 complaints (which handles all discrimination cases) were based on age discrimination petitions. Despite this already high number, the committee feels that this number inaccurately reflects the problem; the real number of discrimination incidents is presumed to be considerably higher.

Need more proof? The CWI, which is the Dutch governmental agency that handles unemployment, maintains that six out of 10 unemployed are over the age of 40 and one in five are over the age of 52. This seems to go against the flow of other European nations, such as France, where it is often the "fresh out of school" demographic that is frequently unemployed.

What is ironic in these cases is that the government has previously tried to intervene; in 2004, age discrimination was prohibited in the Netherlands. As you can see from the above numbers, the law has either had little effect, or was catastrophically high before the law came in to place.

Let's be honest though: companies don't like to higher or keep on older workers because they think it is bad for the bottom line. Older workers need more time off for their family, they're perceived to be less productive, they cost more to keep on because their experience frequently demands a higher wage, etc.

The list goes on and on, but let's keep in mind that the person making these executive level decisions is most like a "dinosaur" him or herself. So until the decision makers who axe today's employees (who committed the unreasonable act of turning 40+) themselves feel the risk of being put out to pasture, this problem is likely to carry on regardless of any legislation.