Malaysiakini Letter

Stop the unfair treatment of the aged workers

Azizi Ahmad  |  Published:

LETTER | Speaking at the “Ageing, Learning and Technology: Enriching Lives, Connecting Communities Conference” in conjunction with the International Day of Older Persons, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad urged the older generation to remain active and continue working, even after retirement.

As the average life expectancy of Malaysians is 75 years, therefore, a person needs savings to last between 15 and 20 years.

As it is now, the retirement age for Malaysians is 60, but still many are not ready to slow down at work and retire, plus the need to survive in the high cost of living currently.

But then, ageism is alive and well in Malaysia. A “too young” educator might be told he or she cannot be a professor, while a job candidate in his 50s could hear the institute needs graduates “with a lot of energy and no bad habits”, while an employee in the 60s might be counselled out of attending a conference, just to allow him to “take it easy this month”.

Malaysia is still without the ‘Ageism Act or Law’ which may include no discrimination against employees based on their age, hiring, firing, work assignments and promotions.

It’s possible for ageism to go completely unnoticed in the workplace. Some examples of what age discrimination might occur are:

  • Learning opportunities are automatically offered to younger employees, not older ones. This can include educational coursework, access to reimbursement for continuing education, professional or industry conference attendance, etc;

  • Being overlooked or passed over for challenging assignments. Most unfair share of unpleasant or tedious assignments are given to older employees;

  • Being left out of important meetings or institutional activities;

  • A spoken or unspoken assumption that you are not entitled to take time off for family commitments because you don’t have young children at home;

  • Disturbing comments and remarks about age; and

  • Being passed over for raises and promotions. Different raises and promotion decisions may indicate age-based discrimination, or they might be a reflection of individual performance.

You may think that you or your workplace is free of age discrimination. If you see signs of ageism that aren’t directed at you, don’t distance yourself by thinking that this could never happen to you.

Should you think that you are still good for the organisation, then it is best to invest in your continued growth and development.

Stay up to date and do readings on trends and best practices, and keep yourself alive by doing better every year.

The older workforce is a wealth of industry and institutional knowledge. Make yourself the wise man of the institution.

Don’t fall into a belief that your workplace “owes you” something for your past contributions.

Your own thinking can affect how you act. There is no reason to falter in doing your best to represent your organisation.

Just like your younger colleagues, keep your network active and your options open.

The best way to prevent you from falling victim to age discrimination is to stay on top of your career game.


AZIZI AHMAD is a senior educator with Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Bahasa Antarabangsa, Kuala Lumpur.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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