Older workers are happier workers
U.S. workers 'less happy at work'
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Companies need to re-think how they use their staff to get the best out of young and ageing employees, according to a new study into age and the workplace.
According to traditional stereotypes, those in their 50s and 60s are merely counting the days until retirement, while thrusting 30-somethings effortlessly leap up the career ladder.
Young workers, meanwhile, are often accused of being disloyal to their employers and lacking interest in their work.
But research by the Employers Forum on Age shows that it is the over-60s who are happiest at work, while those in their 30s feel under the most pressure.
And it is teenagers, rather than those approaching retirement, who are most likely to encounter age discrimination.
Workers are being "held back by an outdated idea of careers where young people start at the bottom and retirement is a cliff edge at the peak," the report concluded.
More than 90 percent of over-60s are happy at work, according to the survey of 1,600 workers aged from 16 to 69. Thirty percent also said they would be happy to work until they were 70 and 40 percent said the concept of a fixed retirement age -- which most private companies set at 65 -- didn't make sense.
"I am enjoying work more the older I get," said 50-something Isobel Ridley, who has set up her own interior decorating business in Scotland.
"I'm calmer and even more motivated to succeed and I have a real passion for business. I'm certainly not in a rush to retire because I'm facing and creating new challenges for myself all the time."
By contrast, just half of workers in their 30s were happy with their work-life balance and only 17 percent of them looked forward to the idea of working into their eighth decade, making them the most reluctant of employees.
The survey also concluded that the main reason why young people chose to move on more frequently than older workers was because they were denied interesting and challenging jobs.
"Ageism is an even bigger problem for people in their late teens," said the report. "Some 25 percent of school leavers have faced age discrimination compared to 21 percent of those over 50."
Employers Forum on Age director Sam Mercer described the report as "a wake-up call for employers."
"We need to break the stereotype habit and be much more aware of peoples' needs at different stages of their working lives," he said.
"People of all ages have something to offer at work. Employers must recognize this 'one size fits all' approach to management based on stereotypes is flawed."
From October 2006 it will be illegal to discriminate on the basis of age in the European Union and many EU countries already have anti-age discrimination legislation in place.
In the UK, companies will no longer be able to set compulsory retirement ages under 65, except for jobs with specific requirements such as those involving heavy manual labor.
But while age campaigners such as Help the Aged and Age Concern oppose the principle of a compulsory retirement age, the UK government said in December it would support the right of employers to make their staff retire at 65.
"So many people are forced to retire, whether they want to or not, just because they have reached an arbitrary birthday. Where is the sense in that?" said Help the Aged senior policy adviser Tessa Harding.