Age discrimination in the Swiss job market appears to be getting worse. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of over 55s on welfare increased by 50.5%, something that cannot be fully explained by an aging population. The population aged between 56 and 64 only increased by 11.6% over the same period.
Across the total population the number on welfare rose by around 10%, a far smaller rise that for those over 55.
Well qualified people are also suffering from longterm middle-aged unemployment.
With average life expectancy in Switzerland of 83, losing a job at 55 leaves 28 years of life to fill and fund.
The path to welfare starts with job loss. Unemployment payments then kick in, however these only last for two years. Then jobseekers must dip into their savings to pay their bills. This works for many but some run out of options and end up on welfare.
The Swiss welfare association, an organisation that fights poverty, recommends extending unemployment payments for those over 55, something that would effectively shift the cost from the welfare system to salary earners. It thinks this would make it easier for this group to continue their job hunt and increase their chances of reentering the workforce.
The association notes that there is age discrimination in the job market and a change of mentality is required.
A survey in 2016 indicates that around 10% of Switzerland’s population have experienced age discrimination.
While Switzerland’s constitution prohibits gender discrimination in job adverts it only prevents public sector employers discriminating against people on age. According to RTS, 10% of private sector job adverts across one week in 2016 contained age requirements.
Reasons for age discrimination cited by employers include the need to take someone young to get a return on the money invested in training, and older workers being overqualified or too expensive. Recruitment expert Guillaume Anthoine told RTS that he thinks older workers are more likely to stick around longer that young workers. And assuming older workers will demand higher pay is an age-based generalisation, unlikely to apply to someone living off their savings.
Another issue is the higher pension payments companies are legally required to make for older employees, an institutional incentive to employ younger people.