Ageism In International And Comparative Human Resource Management

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“Ageism exists in the workplace when employees over 50 are passed over for promotions, career opportunities and training and where social committees and workplace lunch ‘n’ learns focus their attention on the needs and wants of younger workers (Jaworski, 2019)” Ageism is highly prevalent in many cultures in this generation as the elderly are seen to be less productive than the younger generation. This in turn, grants biasness towards the younger generation. According to “Jathan Janove, (2019) today’s older workers are better educated and living longer than any previous generation. They also want to remain in the workforce longer, but discrimination and outdated assumptions are making that a tricky proposition for many experienced employees, and overt acts of ageism are only expected to get worse as the number of older workers grows.”

In the article, “Attitudes and HRM decisions toward older workers in Africa: exploring contradictions through an empirical study” ageism geared towards discrimination against elderly individuals in Africa were investigated, and compared to the discrimination of elderly in Portugal from managers. While this article produced significant results that showed the biasness towards younger individuals in a highly under-researched continent, there were few limitations with respect to replicability, sample and opens up the topic of “does colonization play a greater role in biasness?”

“Rego, A., Vitória, A., Ribeiro, T., Ribeiro, L., Lourenço-Gil, R., Leal, S. and Cunha, M., (2020) explored the attitudes toward older workers of African versus Portuguese managers, and how these managers make HRM decisions in scenarios involving younger versus older workers.” To do so, they collected robust data by using four samples of individuals grouping in category of African managers, Portuguese managers, African students and Portuguese students. Sample size were one hundred and fifty-four (154) African managers, one hundred and thirty-four (134) Portuguese managers, one hundred and eight (108) African students and one hundred and thirty-eight (138) Portuguese students. The participants were selected at random based on demographic data such as ethnicity and employment/education. The data collected for the experimented were obtained through anonymous questionnaires and tallied statistically with standardized solutions using a confirmatory factor analysis. Originally supposed to be a five-factor model but downgraded to a three-factor model due to low reliability with categories of “conscientiousness and performance,” “social capital and generosity” and “adaptability.” With the achieved results, it was found that although African individuals showed more positive attitudes toward older workers than did the Portuguese, they made more discriminatory decisions in the Human Resource Management scenarios.

In the introduction section of this article, the idea and purpose were stated clearly and direct. The idea was to see how ageism is handled in the Human Resource Management in Africa, while exploring the contradictions with its culture. The title of this article displayed the intent while grasping more attention. The first half explored the definitions of the various terminology that would be seen further while bringing in literature to support the reasoning and purpose of this article. For instance, the authors cite Zoogah et al, (2015) who claimed that Africa is very under-researched. In another instance, the authors cited Mangaliso, (2001) that states elderly in Africa are respected members of the community and this duality is the source of the contradictions that is further explored. However, there was no direct hypothesis or theory stated to show what was expected of this experiment. A hypothesis is used in an experiment to define the relationship between two variables and answers the question that was asked. While the intent is clear, the question was not.

In the literature review, while this article was written in the year of 2020, had many references that would seem to be outdated. “A research study is considered to be outdated when it is over three years old due to market/economic and consumer behavior variations, demographic changes, and alterations to the product (When Is a Study Considered to be Outdated? 2020)”

This article focused heavily on the attitude towards elderly individuals in Africa while using the comparison of a western country such as Portugal. This is highly important as it opens up Africa to be further researched as Zoogah et al., (2015) stated that Africa has been “off radar” with respect to researchers. Furthermore, it discusses an issue that rampages through cultures and countries across the globe with increasing numbers. Rego et al., (2020) shared results that not only showed that ageism is prevalent, but it is also prevalent in countries such as Africa whose culture is to respect the elderly. “In traditional African cultures, older persons are to be respected and are encouraged to actively participate in the affairs of their communities (Mangaliso, 2001)” However, the study did not adequately portray this for reasons such as sample size were not similar, the groups were not as diverse and majority of the Africans received their education from Portugal. Furthermore, it opens up to interpretation, “does colonization play an important role in this result?” This ineptness would make it difficult to replicate their program to further expand but instead would now have to redo to grant ability for expansion.

While significant results were displayed in the findings section, there are limitations to these findings. First, the sample sizes were not similar. In each sample, African managers, Portuguese managers, African students and Portuguese students there was a different number, being 154, 134, 108 and 138 respectively. As stated by Rego et al., (2020) in the first paragraph in the method, the participants were gathered by contacts on the first four authors’ contacts and students who were in their class. This is known as a convenience sample which led to an undercoverage bias. “Undercoverage occurs when some members of the population are inadequately represented in the sample (Survey Sampling Bias, 2020)” With the differences amongst the sample sizes, there is a misrepresentation of each population and thus can skew the results in favor of another. In doing so, African managers being majority in number can be skewed to either be greater or lesser in some calculations thus misrepresenting the true statistic. While the authors did state there are limitations due to biasness as the sample size cannot represent the country entirely, they failed to mention that the difference in sample sizes can skew results.

Furthermore, convenience sampling is also known as non-probability technique that leads to many biases as it is choosing whoever is readily available and making limited exceptions with who can be a participant. For example, all the student participants were attending Portuguese based universities. Among the African students selected for this test, due to exceptions being made as a result of convenience sampling, not every African student may be from Africa as some can be born and raised in Portugal.

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In the experiment while the main focus was on the two ethnicities, the participants did not show much diversity with respect to age. According to Rego et al., (2020) pg. 22 line 5, the age of the managers was less than forty for both African and Portuguese managers, while the age of the students was not disclosed. Wright, 1985 stated that “age has a progressive effect on moral values among public relations practitioners, particularly in areas such as basic morality and basic honesty.” With respect to the experiment, varying of ages is important to obtain a more accurate measurement of the population as the ages used only represents a certain percentage of the population’s demographic. In doing so, outcomes to another misrepresentation of the results as the participants’ decision and actions can be relatively similar as a result of nearness of age.

The area of which one gains their education can greatly change their perspective. Rego et al., (2020) pg.22 line 18, indicated that almost all African managers studied in Portuguese universities. By studying in their universities, cultural change can occur. In the western regions, elderly individuals are not given the same high levels of respect as seen in the African culture. In bringing about that cultural change, Africa managers can adapt their newfound knowledge and change and apply it to their workplaces. Even more so, majority of the participants were male. Gender plays a role in ageism! In the findings section of the article, upon calculating results for scenario four, which plots an elderly woman against a young man with the same qualifications, it was seen that discrimination was not higher if the individual was female. This was not an accurate result as this is only tested once and the gender was not swapped.

The final critique of the method is the inclusion of Portugal. It is stated by Rego et al., (2020) pg.4 line 7-8, that Portugal was a colonizer of Africa and indicated that may cause a change in expected results, hence why they included Portugal into the experiment. In this instance, a country with similar culture to Africa that was not colonized by Portugal needs to be added in the experiment to act as a control to limit the effect of other variables, such as colonization having an impact on the culture of ageism.

In the findings of Rego et al., (2020), there were many statistical results that were displayed to show the difference in numbers for each factor in the Three-Model Factor created. However, every result was introduced as a table of words and numbers. “Tables and graphs are visual representations. They are used to organize information to show patterns and relationships. A graph shows this information by representing it as a shape. Researchers and scientists often use tables and graphs to report findings from their research (Joyce, Neill, Watson and Fisher, 2008)” The purpose of a graph is to present data that are too numerous or complicated to be described adequately in the text. In analyzing quantitative data, a graph is always needed to display the relationship appropriately and with ease.

While there were many corrections to method and findings, the discussion session of this article was well written. The data analysis was clearly described and structured. Although well written and explanatory, backing research used in some areas were taken out of context. For example, Rego et al., 2020 pg. 19 line 7-9 claims that transactional and autocratic leadership are more prevalent in Africa thus resulting in their inability to distinguish between in-role and extra-role performance, using Jallow,(2014). However, Jallow, (2014) was not a paper of measurement on what type of leadership is seen in Africa, but how scholars such as James Macgregor Burn wrote their articles based on western culture and addressed it to all human condition. It also states, that Africa can gain theoretical benefits of understanding organizations but it does not give an abundance number of what leadership style is commonly seen.

Continuing, the rest of the discussion is precise and explains further to support their points. One of the main purposes for this article was to show the contradiction based on the duality of Africans in terms of personal culture and business culture. As observed by the authors, the African participants while have more positive attitudes toward elderly workers, discriminate against them more. This paradox supports their contradiction theory and it was attributed to western teachings, theories and approaches brought on by colonial ideology and capitalist modes of production which was observed in Khan & Ackers, (2004).

The purpose of this article is to highlight the prevalent issue of ageism in Human Resource Management in Sub-Saharan Africa. This article, while not without errors and corrections, has done a good job in highlighting the ageism not just in Sub-Saharan Africa but within Portugal as well. The theme of this article can be that of Comparative Human Resource Management. “Comparative HRM, on the other hand, is a systematic method of investigation that seeks to explain the patterns and variations encountered in cross-national HRM rather than simply describe HRM institutions and practices in different societies. (Difference between international and comparative HRM, 2018)” Comparative Human Resource Management exist due to differences in specific historical, cultural and institutional heritage in certain countries. Comparative differences occur due to decisive historical events such as the process of industrialization or due to the legacy of pre-modern forms of social organization. In terms of this experiment, the human resource management issue of ageism was compared between Sub-Saharan Africa and Portugal. Both countries vary in history and heritage with similar culture, but show differences in handling the situation.

The issue of ageism in the labor market from Human Resource Management can be seen in recruitment/retention, performance, training and interaction with older colleagues. These are vital in success of any business and subject to change in many cultures thus having different strategies in human resource management. While this article is a clear example of this, it should have been highlighted and stated clearly to further help understand the need for the experiment in understanding cultural differences and how the different cultures handle ageism.


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