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Belgium – Age discrimination revealed in temporary staffing industry

23 March 2012

A recent undercover report has unveiled the extent to which those aged over 50 are discriminated against by employment agencies in the country. Now, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CGKR) has condemned such practices, calling for the staffing industry and the government “to crack down on companies” using such discriminatory methods.

An undercover documentary by VRT-programma has revealed that five out of ten, i.e. half of those “tested” employment agencies complied with demands asking not to hire candidates aged over 50. The employment agencies were asked to look specifically for candidates that were “young” and “dynamic” and half of them agreed to the condition not to select those over 50, something the CGKR said in a press release was “easily accepted.”

The CGKR also made it clear that these practices violate anti-discrimination legislations and was “outraged” that the temporary staffing industry in Belgium was still discriminatory. In October last year a collective agreement was approved that included a code of conduct to fight discrimination in the recruitment industry.

A spokesman of CGKR confirmed to Staffing Industry Analysts that the organisation was actively calling on labour inspectorates to identify those staffing firms that are discriminating against candidates by analysing the selection criteria used by recruitment firms. The spokesman also pointed out that many bigger staffing firms already use various measures to raise awareness of discrimination although more needed to be done to tackle the issue efficiently.  

Research commissioned by the CGKR also shows that negative stereotypes about older people prevail reducing their chances of employment significantly. It said that in 2011, the Centre has been able to open 98 cases of possible age discrimination although this was just “the tip of the iceberg” as many cases still go unreported.

“Age discrimination can affect anyone, young or old, and as a phenomenon it is detrimental to the entire society,” said Jozef De Witte, director of the CGKR. He also said it was “incomprehensible” that the staffing industry is still applying such discriminatory measures.

The Belgian Federation of Employment Agencies, Federgon, currently estimates that in 2010 a total of 520,000 people have been employed at least once as temporary workers in the country. It is mainly students aged between 21 and 25, as well as those aged between 31 to 45 years of age that make up almost two thirds of the temporary workforce. 

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