Career starts to stagnate at age 48, Singapore survey on ageism at work shows

Only 63 per cent of those surveyed felt their workplace "values all employees regardless of age". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The average age at which careers stagnate is seen to be 48, according to a recent survey done in Singapore.

This is 14 years before the statutory retirement age of 62, which will go up to 65 by 2030.

Younger respondents, between the age of 18 and 34, had even lower expectations. They believe their careers will come to a standstill at the average age of 41.

The survey results on ageism at the workplace, which were released on Monday (Feb 10) by recruitment firm Randstad, also found that 41 per cent of the 1,052 people polled blamed their age for the unfair way they were managed compared with their colleagues.

Only 63 per cent felt their workplace "values all employees regardless of age".

Ms Jaya Dass, Randstad's managing director for Singapore and Malaysia, said the survey results highlight that workers cannot see how their careers will be progressing.

"When employees feel that they have peaked in their career, they will start to lose motivation. This lack of drive and passion could have a negative impact on their work productivity.

"Therefore, it is critical that companies provide equal and adequate opportunities for all their staff to continuously upskill themselves," she said.

She also recommended that employers understand the career aspirations and skill gaps of their staff wherever they are in their careers, and provide guidance on how they can further improve their capabilities.

The online survey of people based in Singapore was conducted in December 2019.

More than half say they feel they have fewer training or career progression opportunities at work as they age.

Respondents aged 55 and older are more likely to feel this way, with 64 per cent saying so.

But ageism is felt by some young people too. More than a quarter, or 28 per cent, of those aged 18 to 34 feel or are told they had been denied a leadership position because they are too young.

Ms Dass said that in Asian societies, it is not uncommon for young professionals to be passed over for managerial positions owing to their age rather than to inadequacies in their skills or leadership abilities.

But, she noted, attitudes are starting to shift, especially as start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises tend to have younger leaders.

"Instead of judging an employee's abilities based on how long they have worked, employers should focus more on skills and competencies such as learning potential and leadership qualities. Employees who are motivated to succeed are usually those who are equipped with skills that are critical to driving business growth and success," she said.

The survey also looked at interactions among colleagues in different age groups.

It found young working people are less likely to invite colleagues aged 55 and older to an informal social gathering organised for the workplace group, and vice versa.

About a quarter, or 26 per cent, of those aged 18 to 34 said they avoid communicating with people aged 55 and older because they have difficulty doing it.

Conversely, only 8 per cent of those aged 55 and older said they avoid communicating with people aged 22 and younger, while 3 per cent said they avoid communicating with people aged 23 to 38, because they find it difficult.


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