“It is a problem, both for society and for the individual,” economist Magnus Carlsson, co-author of a new report for the government-appointed Delegation for Senior Labour, told the TT news agency.
He and fellow economist Stefan Eriksson sent more than 6,000 fake job applications to around 2,000 companies, applying for work in seven areas, picked to be as representative as possible: Administrative assistants, shop sales assistants, drivers, business sellers, chefs, cleaners and restaurant staff.
One of the most surprising things they found was that age discrimination started much earlier than they had previously thought. Applicants in their early 40s were already less attractive than younger workers.
“We had a hypothesis before the study that there would be a breaking point at the age of 55. If you look at labour market statistics on unemployment and the chances of getting a job, it looks like something happens at that point. It was surprising that it started so early,” Carlsson told TT.
It gets worse the older you get. For job applicants in their mid-60s, the probability of getting contacted by a potential new employer is only around two to three percent, according to the study.
The authors concluded that explanations may be stereotypes about people's ability to learn new things, adapt and take initiatives as they grow older, rather than employers being actively opposed to older people.
The pattern was observed in all professions investigated, and hit women harder than men.
The Delegation for Senior Labour is part of a government-ordered series of reports which aim to spread knowledge and research about older talent, and propose policies for a more inclusive labour market.