Does Age Matter in HR Decision Making? Four Types of Age Policies in Finnish Work Organizations
AbstractThe extension of work careers is one of the key targets of social policy in the EU as well as in Finnish national policy-making. But how is this objective of lengthened work life received at the workplace level? This study examines the aim of extending working careers at an organizational level. The data comprise interviews with human resources managers, shop stewards, and employees reaching the end of their working life, conducted in ten Finnish work organizations. Four different age policy lines can be distinguished from the data. First, the age policy practices of manufacturing enterprises are very much alike in that a clear turn has occurred from favoring the unemployment pension path in the case of dismissals to extending working careers. Second, the age policy of public sector organizations encourages investment in extending the working careers of older employees, though young people are clearly preferred in recruitment. The third line can be found in private service sector enterprises that utilize age segmentation based on the age of their customers – young waiters for young customers, for example – while the fourth can be described by the words ‘situation-specific’ and ‘passive’. No input is made into extending working careers and the unemployment route is used as the means of dismissal where needed. The study reveals that the organizations’ age policies are strategic in nature: longer working careers are supported and older people are hired only if it is strategically sound. It can be said that workplaces currently determine the boundaries of who and at what age people are fit for work and of ‘working age’.
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