Despite the common perception of older people having trouble finding work, IT recruiters suggest age is only a minor barrier in the local job market. For example, one 61-year-old Visual Basic programmer in Auckland was recently placed in a job. "He has been coding for two to three years and the [new] company loves him," says Enterprise recruitment's Barry O'Brien. Enterprise also recently placed several developers who are now on their second or third careers, including one in his 50s. The ongoing skills shortage in IT is credited with improving prospects for older workers, many of whom are retraining for highly paid work in the industry. "Without question, employers welcome these individuals with open arms. If someone is going to take the major step of curtailing their income for a year or more to retrain themselves, then obviously they will be highly motivated to succeed," O'Brien says. "Age is irrelevent. It is all to do with currency of skills," he says. Christine Fitchew of Candle IT & T Recruitment in Auckland agrees age is no barrier in IT. "We are getting more and more people changing career midstream so more companies are getting guys in their 40's working for $20 an hour to get the experience," she says. In New Zealand, age discrimination is illegal but Massey University research suggests only 50% of men aged 55-64 work fulltime. For women of that age, the equivalent figure is below half. Anecdotal evidence suggests the IT industry is not over-represented in age discrimination claims as the industry is focused on skills, according to a spokesman for the Human Rights Commission. However, in the UK, IT recruitment agencies are demanding their government creates an "anti-ageism" law. Current guidelines, they say, are not effective enough and if clients put an age limit on a vacancy, they have to respect it. They want companies to realise the value older workers have. European human rights legislation to be introduced in Britain next month will strengthen existing rules on race and sexual discrimination, but will say nothing on age discrimination. However, Britain's Department for Employment and Education says it is evaluating employment law and will produce findings early next year.
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