Buddying: a tool for social revival ?
Inactive, slow, narrow minded, old-fashioned and always ready to complain…. The prejudices about 50+ are in stark contrast to the state of mind they are in. Seniors want to participate in social life, they want to share their experience and miss the recognition they received during their professional careers. Similarly, young people from immigrant backgrounds want to participate in professional life, but are held back. Do prejudices prevent us from benefiting from each other’s talents?
“At 68, all of a sudden you are nobody.” At 65, he negotiated with his company to stay on a little longer. He trained junior engineers and was respected by his colleagues. “Until the new manager stepped in saying, ‘I’m here to clean up. Everyone over 50 is getting out“
“At 68, all of a sudden you are nobody.” At 65, he negotiated with his company to stay on a little longer. He trained junior engineers and was respected by his colleagues. “Until the new manager stepped in saying, ‘I’m here to clean up. Everyone over 50 is getting out’” All of a sudden, Gilbert found himself at home, without the network of colleagues, without a busy agenda, like he had lost his social position. Arnold can also relate to this story: “I wanted to continue working after the age of 65. I had the feeling that I was no longer useful. During your professional career you build up a lot of experience, but it’s not much use to you anymore when you retire.”
For a lot of people in their sixties, the day of retirement comes rather abruptly. They feel they are still active, and don’t see the point in “sitting at home” for the remaining third of their lives. Paradoxically, we as a society tend to put people aside at the end of their careers, and even more so at the time of retirement. Along with them goqq the acquired experience, expertise and skills at rest. The consequences? Not only are they confronted with that feeling of ‘uselessness’, but they also have to contend with the external perception of being someone with whom they do not identify: an older person who is ‘out of touch with the times’, ‘old-fashioned’, or even ‘narrow-minded’.
For young people with an immigrant background, the same mechanisms are at play from the day they’re born and continue throughout their lives. The labels they are pinned on are particularly impeding when they want to enter the labor market. They are confronted with negative stereotypes because they are young (and therefore inexperienced) and of foreign origin. They have to prove themselves twice to get access to the labor market, hoping to get a job that matches their skills. These discriminatory prejudices not only prevent these young people full of potential, aspirations and dreams from finding their place in the labor market, but also deprive society and businesses of diverse and enriching talents and skills.
These prejudices are harmful to both the individual and the community. Why not create the conditions so that everyone, regardless of age, origin or gender, can complement each other, develop and share their talents?
FINDING THE COMMIN DENOMINATOR
In order to achieve this goal, structural measures to combat discrimination in the labor market are much needed. But it also starts with recognizing that prejudices about others creep into everyone’s mind. There are ways to get rid of them – or at least make ourselves aware of them. After all, the more diverse our social environment (family, friends, colleagues), the more tolerant we become of people who are different from us. Getting out of our digs and meeting people – preferably people who do not belong to the same social group – is therefore a first individual step in the right direction.
This conviction gave birth to DUO for a JOB. For eight years now, the association has been creating duos by bringing together people over 50 (“mentors” like Gilbert and Arnold) and young people with a migrant background (“mentees”). People over 50 respond to the needs of young people (lack of experience, networks and social capital) and vice versa (lack of self-esteem, fight against isolation…). Working together as a duo and the relationship of trust that develops helps older and younger people to better understand each other’s mutual reality, and it promotes empathy – not only for each other, but also for the group to which the other belongs. Jean-Louis, a mentor, testifies, “I have become an activist for these young people. I defend them against everyone who has prejudices against them, even against my family.”
In today’s difficult economic and social context, where many human relationships are digitized, there is a risk that less frequent and quality social contacts will lead to more mutual misunderstandings. After more than 3,500 duos (and therefore 3,500 relationships between young and not so young people), DUO for a JOB can state with certainty that encounter gives rise to the deconstruction of stereotypes and prejudices. With a poster campaign visible this week on the Belgian coast, the organization launches an invitation to multiply those effects: leave your comfort zone, meet the other and be transformed. It is through the interaction between people who belong to different groups that we create relationships between citizens based on tolerance, openness and mutual respect.