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Age Discrimination in Turbulent Times

Age Discrimination in Turbulent Times

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

Concerns about the ramifications of a rapidly aging population have generally focused on the post-retirement period, with limited scholarly attention to the experience of ageism in the workplace. Despite a shift in policy against early retirement, ‘older workers’ – who may be as young as 40 – are disproportionately experiencing age discrimination, often resulting in joblessness. This article argues that in a postmodern environment, where the culture of ‘youthism’ predominates, the workplace is undergoing significant changes. In the new knowledge economy, characterised by technological know how, flexibility and choice, traditional values such as maturity, experience and loyalty have become passé. Drawing on Australian complaints and reported decisions of age discrimination in the workplace in the context of the international literature, the article demonstrates the variety of forms ageism is taking. It argues that age discrimination legislation reflects an outdated modernist paradigm that fails to address the experience of older workers. In addition, as part of the culture of youthism, work is now being gauged by its capacity to create an aesthetic of pleasure.

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Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

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