Why is it so difficult to find a job

Why it is so difficult to find a new job when you are over 50

Not every rejection is equally bad, there are definitely differences. Andrea Schwendenwein has already got used to the standard letter with the sentence "We didn't decide against you, but in favor of a different applicant".

Some inquiries have no answer at all. Although this is the exception, it still annoys her every time, she says. What she got most excited about was the online application form for a cleaning company: "I filled out everything well, and when I hit 'Send' I got the message: 'Date of birth is too early.' Quite a cheek, isn't it? "

Andrea Schwendenwein studied floristry, after a few years of work moved to the office of a wholesaler and most recently worked for Baumax for 16 years, where she was involved in purchasing and goods planning, among other things. Then the hardware store chain got into economic difficulties and was broken up.

Schwendenwein lost her job in September 2015. Since then, she has written around 270 applications and only received rejections. The woman has a handicap that outweighs her undisputed specialist knowledge and the complete résumé: She is 53 years old.

“I've been at home for a year and a half now. It doesn't make me more valuable. "

On some days the situation affects her, Schwendenwein admits: "But then I think to myself, the boys don't have it easy these days either." The agile Viennese woman doesn’t fit the cliché of the depressed unemployed person who lets herself go and lolls around on the sofa in jogging pants for days.

Schwendenwein continues to fight. It is clear to her that, even in the best case scenario, she will have to cut corners. "I've been at home for a year and a half now. It doesn't make me any more valuable." Age can be a very relative unit of measurement.

Christian Kern, 51, is considered a comparatively young head of government. If a man in his mid-fifties is the CEO of an ATX corporation, this is in many cases seen as a generation change. On the other hand, on the normal job market, 45-year-olds are suspected of no longer being strong enough for good jobs.

From the age of 50 it becomes more and more difficult to convince the personnel managers.

The Methuselah plot

Almost a quarter of the 500,000 or so Austrians who were registered as unemployed in January belong to the so-called 50 plus generation. The unemployment rate in this segment has recently risen again by seven percent; at the same time, however, the number of employees in this age group has been rising sharply for years.

Apparently the alleged Methusalems are still fit enough to drag themselves to the company every day - provided they have a job. Only the search for a new position is not recommended; you can indeed grow gray hair.

The management consultant Irene Kloimüller once described this process as "instant aging" in a study for the Public Employment Service (AMS). "If I lose my job, I'll be 20 years old in five minutes." This practice is a serious problem from the point of view of economics. There have never been so many 50 to 60 year olds as there are today.

The "baby boomers" are too large a group to be treated like old people long before their time. For a few years now, politicians have been trying to change this practice. The current, recently completely overhauled government program again provides for a few measures for this target group.

Among other things, the protection against dismissal for newly hired employees is to be relaxed. There are also plans to create 20,000 jobs for older people in the non-profit sector. AMS board member Johannes Kopf thinks both are conceivable - provided that the implementation works.

"With Aktion 20'000 the question will be where you can find enough meaningful activities that have not been done before. We need the ideas and the will to organize from the communities." The expert believes that the loosened protection against dismissal must be communicated very well, otherwise word of the corrections would not get around.

In labor law in particular, wrong legal opinions sometimes persist for a long time, says Kopf: "For example, most Austrians believe that you cannot be terminated when you are sick. But that has not been true since 1945." Incidentally, protection against dismissal for older people is not as rigorous as some believe.

Breaking down various barriers in the head

It would be more important than new subsidies or laws to break down various barriers in the mind for everyone involved. At the AMS we know 40-year-olds who defend themselves with hands and feet against retraining because it "no longer pays off anyway".

In addition, there are entrepreneurs who have saved older job candidates under the heading "nothing but zores". Relevant prejudices also proliferate in Austria because for a long time there was hardly any need to check their truthfulness.

Most of the best agers who had stumbled professionally could rely on getting a warm nest in early retirement. Many employers and employees have internalized this automatism. "Because of our early retirement culture, there is too little experience with older job seekers," says Hedwig Lutz from the Economic Research Institute.

The pull towards retirement was so strong that a few years ago it was still considered quite normal for women to start part-time work at the age of 52.

Read the whole «Profile» article here.

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