by Ernesto F. Herrera
from The Manila Times
CAN age have something to do with one’s ability to do a job? I would have to say it could. But don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating age discrimination. I am in fact very much against it. But age can have a bearing in a worker’s qualifications for a certain job in a positive way. Because the older you are, the more experience you have in your previous jobs, in previous careers even. And the skills and experience you have gained throughout your working life will serve you well should you wish to continue working after retirement perhaps, or should you wish to transfer careers later on.
That’s why older workers who want to continue working full-time or work at a different pace for a few days a week after their retirement, as well as older workers who want to shift to second careers or just transfer jobs should not be prevented by age-discriminating policies by employers.
But here in the Philippines, this kind of discrimination is obvious. Just take a quick look at the job ads you have in the papers and you see employers everywhere specifying age qualifications. Older people are barred from applying for jobs that they may well be qualified for. And I don’t even mean senior citizens here. You would easily find ads specifying people 30 years and older “need not apply.” So what more for those who are relatively young at 40 and above?
Why such discrimination? If you’re qualified, you’re qualified, whatever your age may be (unless of course, you are underage, but we have a law against child labor; I know because I authored the bill during my 1st term in the Senate).
I really think a lot of employers are missing out on a golden opportunity (no pun intended) to hire more mature workers who can give them—to borrow an American term—the biggest bang for their buck. Their human resource departments should know better. But they don’t.
The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce pointed recently to the Philippines’ alarming jobs-skills mismatch, for which they blame the deteriorating education system. I won’t argue against that contention because there is a lot of truth to it. But I will say that if employers can be more open-minded and would not tie down jobs to particular age brackets then they would find that a lot of older people would be more than qualified and would also gladly fill their job vacancies.
Of course, age restriction is not the only kind of discrimination we would see in local job ads. There are those that specify just male or female, or those that give height requirements, or those that say you must have graduated from certain prestigious universities. For the meantime, let me just focus on age discrimination.
There’s a Senate bill pending in the committee level, filed by Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada last year, against age discrimination, titled, “An act to prohibit any employer, labor contractor and labor organization from discriminating against any individual because of the individual’s age.” I think the bill can be refined further because the Supreme Court already ruled that labor-only contracting is illegal, but the idea is solid. There must be a stronger law passed against age discrimination.
Talking about laws, there is a particular section in Republic Act 9257 or “The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003” on the employment of senior citizens. Let me just quote the part regarding the duties of the government in this regard: “Senior citizens who have the capacity and desire to work, or be re-employed, shall be provided information and matching services to enable them to be productive members of society…
“Private entities that will employ senior citizens upon effectivity of this Act, shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income, equivalent to 15 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to senior citizens subject to the provision of Section 34 of the National Revenue Code…”
Of course, there is a lot of controversy on whether the government is really able to implement the Senior Citizens Act, with the full cooperation of the private sector. And then again, like I mentioned, you do not have to be 60 years or older (age of a senior citizen by law) to be discriminated against. Like I said, even 28 and 30 year-olds can be disqualified for certain positions.
Filipinos who have the skills, knowledge and experience to do a certain job should not be prevented the opportunity just because they have a few more digits in their lifespan, a fact that should work for them and not against.
I am not just writing about this because I grew a year older a few days ago. Indeed, I don’t have any regrets about growing old. Not everyone has that privilege. But being useful keeps us youthful. Let us not be prevented from being useful, whatever our age may be.