Happy 50th birthday, Mr Blair. Almost every newspaper in the land
has played its part in the deification of our Prime Minister.
“The Believer” the Financial Times magazine dubbed him,
showing a sombre Tony on its cover – without quite managing to
ascertain what it is our leader actually believes in.
Yet it would be good to imagine that now he contemplates his sixth
decade, he might do more to address the problem of other men and
women of his age. For instance, one-third of over-50s who want to
work are jobless.
This has an obvious impact on their immediate quality of life since
benefits are punitive, still predicated on the Victorian assumption
that he or she who is without work has no desire for employment. It
also has a direct effect on an income in old age – especially for
women, who may have taken time out of work to bring up
Even those who have a job face discrimination. Fiftyon (www.Fiftyon.co.uk) is a
work-life balance website. It recently revealed the results of a
questionnaire completed by its 2,110 members.
Three out of four had experienced ageism when applying for jobs –
70 per cent of incidents had occurred within companies employing
under 500 staff, and the executives responsible in two-thirds of
the cases were in their twenties.
The average social worker is in his or her forties. Ageism may not
be an immediate problem but it could be for the increasing numbers
who bail out or take early retirement to switch careers. All that
experience, all that knowledge of human nature, set aside because
of a birth date. It’s such a waste.
Will a law against ageism be sufficient to tackle the problem?
Could such a law ever be effective? Legislation against sexism, low
pay and racism has proven woefully ineffective.
Of course, in these times of financial restraint, the young not
only carry fewer years, they are also infinitely cheaper. Why hire
a 52-year-old former social worker, no matter how suitable, when he
or she costs twice as much to employ?
So, happy birthday, Mr Blair, but perhaps, just as Leo’s arrival
forced you to focus a little more assiduously on the issue of child
care (and hey presto, we now have a miserly two-week paternity
leave) – you might now address yourself to how social policy
adversely affects the many whose only crime is their vintage.