Age discrimination not rife: recruiters

Older employees often work as contractors rather than permanent staffers

When Computerworld asked a local IT recruitment firm to comment on a legal case in the US involving a 58-year-old, who is suing outsourcer Infosys over alleged age discrimination in the hiring process, the company's opinion sparked a flurry of comments on our website.

Many disputed the recruiter's assertion that IT professionals aged 50 and over are harder to place; for example, one noted: "I am in my 30s and I have worked with plenty of people in IT in their 50s and even 60s (developers, DBAs, etc), and they are as good as anyone else, actually even better because they tend to be more mature and diligent."

Another said: "I am 64 and have 40-plus years IT experience, the last 20 as a project manager. I work freelance and have had no problems getting work, in fact I have had to turn down contracts."

The 64-year-old's working situation isn't uncommon, says Tom Derbyshire, information technology recruitment manager at Robert Walters.

He says they deal with more candidates aged 50-plus on the contracting side of the recruitment scene than on the permanent side.

"A big part of the contracting database is in that age bracket, whereas in the permanent space, we don't see a lot of people over 50," Derbyshire says.

Many of the permanent positions the firm recruits for are "at the lower end" of what a candidate in their fifties would want in terms of experience and seniority, he says.

Certain areas within IT, such as some software development skill sets and social media marketing, have a young focus, he says, and there aren't many over-50s in those fields.

But, in other areas such as project management, "someone with 20 years' experience has an advantage".

AbsoluteIT director Grant Burley says age discrimination isn't common in his experience.

"We get demand for certain skill-sets, and the client just wants the best candidate.

"If that person is 50-plus, then that's who they'll get."

He says AbsoluteIT recently placed a man and a woman, both in their sixties, as business analysts.

"There are contractors we work with regularly and have repeatedly placed," who are in that age bracket, he says. "We never have an issue finding work for them and our customers are happy to engage them.

"Again, it all comes down to 'who is the best person for the job'?"

When placing candidates aged 50-plus, "you're calling on someone's skill set, and a lot of those in the 50-plus camp are well-respected and have good relationships re working on a contractual basis.

"They're an important part of the IT workforce and I'd be surprised to see any discrimination against them."

Burley says discussing employment law with clients to avoid situations where discrimination might occur is part of the process of working with them.

The idea that older employees should step aside for younger ones is "disingenuous and naive", he says, because with skills shortages in many areas of IT, "New Zealand isn't in a position to be discriminating on an age basis."

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