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Inactive, slow, closed, resistant to change, backward-looking and always ready to complain… The prejudices about people over 50 contrast sharply with the state of mind in which they find themselves. Older people want to participate in social life, want to share their experience and miss the recognition they received during their professional career. Another group, young people with an immigrant background, are eager to participate in professional life, but are held back. Are prejudices preventing us from collectively benefiting from each other’s talents?
“At the age of 68, suddenly you’re nobody. Gilbert didn’t want to retire yet. At the age of 65, he negotiated with his company to stay a little longer. He trained young engineers and was respected by his colleagues. “Until the new director came in and said: ‘I’m here to clean up. All the people over 50 are going to leave. Overnight, Gilbert found himself at home, with no network of colleagues, no daytime structure, no recognition. Arnold can also relate to this story: “I wanted to continue working after I turned 65. I felt I was no longer useful. You accumulate a certain amount of baggage during your working career, but it’s not much use when you retire.”
For many people in their sixties, retirement comes suddenly. They still feel active, want to participate in the world around them and do not want to stay at home for the third part of their lives. Paradoxically, as a society, we tend to ‘park’ people at the end of their careers, let alone at the time of retirement. At a stroke, the experience, expertise and skills acquired throughout life are no longer valued. What are the consequences? Not only are they confronted with a feeling of ‘uselessness’, but they also have to deal with the external perception of being someone who is not like them: an older person who is ‘out of touch’, ‘old-fashioned’ or even ‘resistant to change’.
For young people with an immigrant background, the same mechanisms are at work from birth and continue throughout their lives. These stereotypical barriers are particularly problematic when they enter the labour market. Negative representations linked to the fact that they are young (and therefore inexperienced) and from an immigrant background are imposed on them. They have to prove themselves twice over in order to access the job market, in the hope of being able to do a job that matches their skills. These prejudices that lead to discrimination not only prevent these young people full of potential, desires and dreams from finding their place professionally, but also deprive society and companies of diverse and rich skills and experiences.
These prejudices are harmful to both the Since these prejudices are harmful to both individuals and the community, why not create the conditions so that each person, whatever their age, origin or gender, can complement each other, deploy their talents and share their wealth with us?
In order to do this, we should probably start by getting rid of the prejudices about others we all tend to have. The good news is that there are solutions. In addition to the necessary systemic changes, a first individual action would be to “go out and meet people”, based on the observation that the more diverse our social environment (family, friends, colleagues), the more tolerant we become of people who are different from us.
It is with this approach that DUO for a JOB has built its model. For the past eight years, the association has been creating duos and matching people over 50 (like Gilbert and Arnold) with young people from immigrant backgrounds. The 50+ respond to the needs of young people (lack of experience, networks/social capital) and vice versa (lack of self-esteem/fight against isolation, etc.), but not only… Witnessing the creation of more than 3,500 duos has given us the opportunity to see that through individual experience, people over 50 and young people get to know each other and open up the wonderful breach of questioning and challenging. By creating a long-term relationship of trust, they discover the reality of the other person and what unites them, and develop empathy and understanding, not only for him/her, but also for the group to which he/she belongs. Jean-Louis, a mentor, says: “I have become an advocate for these young people. I defend them to all those who have ‘a priori’ against them, including in my family.”
In the current difficult economic and social context, where many human relationships have been digitised, there is a risk that less frequent and less qualitative social contacts will increase mutual misunderstandings. The time has come for DUO for a JOB to send a message of openness with this poster campaign on the Belgian coast. We have witnessed improbable encounters between thousands of young and not so young people from very different backgrounds and we have to admit that this experience has been very powerful in deconstructing prejudices. Today, we would like to launch an invitation to multiply the effects: go out, leave your comfort zone, go and meet the Other, the discoveries you will make may well surprise you and transform you, for the benefit of all. Through the exchange between people from different groups, we can create relationships between citizens based on tolerance, openness and mutual respect.