Occupational Ageing: Stereotypes of Older Workers As Ornamental, Institutionalised and Productive Discourses

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Clary KREKULA, Karlstad University, Sweden
Stereotypes on older workers are described as commonly used and are said to have negative consequences for older workers wellbeing. They are also described as an obstacle to extended working lives. However, previous research has not problematizized the separate meanings that different stereotypes may have and the consequences that they have both on older workers health and on an organisational and societal level. In this paper, I contribute to such a discussion by exploring the organizational use of seemingly contradicting stereotypes; eg on older workers as both fragile and experienced. The analysed material comes from a study on Swedish fire-fighters and includes a survey conducted among 1176 employees at 25 randomly selected fire stations with quantitative and qualitative data as well as from qualitative interviews. The analysis is based on the idea that stereotypes are not only cognitive elements but also verbal claims and discourses. The results show that stereotypes on older workers differ and they can make up both ornamental and institutionalised discourses and that these two forms of stereotypes have different effect on the health of older workers. Departing from these results, theoretical tensions and contradictions in notions on the relation between stereotypes and older workers health may be reconsidered. I will also illustrate that stereotypes make up productive discourses which are used also in the processes where (un)marked age, hegemonic masculinity and gender relations respectively are constructed and negotiated.