Whilst staff aged 45 are considered to perform at an equal or better level than their younger counterparts, hiring managers still feel older job candidates will struggle to learn new skills. 

New research by Generation, a global employment nonprofit, has found that there are prevalent barriers to employment for candidates aged over 45.

The report indicates that COVID-19 has significantly heightened the ageism that candidates face, harming employment opportunities and worsening employment conditions for midcareer workers.

Over a third (37 per cent) of people switching jobs in their midcareer and over half of those seeking work say that COVID-19 has had a major impact on their employment status.

In addition, over seven in 10 (71 per cent) people currently searching for a job see their age as a major obstacle when trying to land a new role.

Employers were also found to view job candidates aged over 45 as having weaker skills relative to younger candidates, despite this group having equal or better on-the-job performance compared to their younger job peers.

Hiring managers felt that less than a fifth (17 per cent) of over 45s are application ready, only 18 per cent have relevant skills or experience and one in seven (15 per cent) have the right fit with company culture.

However, the study warns that this perspective is disconnected from the reality of the situation.

The same hiring managers who expressed concerns about midcareer candidates acknowledge that over four in five (87 per cent) of their older hires perform on the job as good as, or better, than younger employees.

The research also finds that hiring managers say that 90 per cent of their employees aged over 45 have as much or more potential to stay with a company over the long term in comparison to younger peers.

However, a key factor holding this group back was the hesitance to take up training – with over half (57 per cent) displaying reluctance and only 1 per cent saying that training increases their confidence while looking for jobs.

Despite this, there are clear benefits to this as three-quarters (74 per cent) of midcareers who have successfully switched to a new career see the skills they learned in training as being instrumental in securing new jobs.

As such, the report makes key recommendations to overcome ageism within recruitment:

  • Improving national and global employment statistic tracking to illuminate the unique issued faced by employees and candidates aged over 45.
  • Linking training programmes directly to employment opportunities and providing stipends to support age 45+ individuals who are hesitant to engage in training.
  • Changing hiring practices to suppress potential age biases and better assessing the potential of job candidates aged over 45 by allowing them to show their skills through demonstration-based exercises. 
  • Rethinking current employer training approaches to make it easier to fill new roles with existing age 45+ employees, versus relying solely on new hires. 

Mona Mourshed, Global CEO of Generation, said:

Hearing employers that have hired job-seekers aged 45 and above say that those workers tend to outperform their younger counterparts is encouraging, but also accentuates the tragedy of today’s employment landscape.  

We tapped into the voices of midcareer job seekers and workers in seven of the countries in which Generation runs programmes to inform this powerful report. We hope this new research spurs governments and employers alike to take steps to counter rampant agesim and to include this forgotten age-group in their recovery efforts.


*The survey, commissioned by Generation, took place between March and May 2021. The 3,800 respondents spanned both employed and unemployed people aged 18 to 60. For the perspective from hiring managers, the survey reached 1,404 respondents across Brazil, India, Italy, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.