Learning from China’s positive attitude towards older workers

| May 30, 2013

China has a long tradition of respecting the wisdom and knowledge the older generation can contribute. Zoe Li from Global Access Partners looks beyond the Chinese perspective and explores how we can adopt a more positive attitude towards older people in the workforce.

Respecting your elders has been embedded in the traditional Chinese culture for thousands of years. The older generation is associated with wisdom, authority and belief. There is a common saying that is frequently quoted by older people: “I eat salt more than you eat rice”. (Rice is a staple food for Chinese people, and this phrase indicates the vast difference in age and experience).

In China, it is not unusual for mature workers to be advantaged for promotion as senior employees, as they have earned the loyalty of their employers through the rich experience they bring into the company.

However, China has abundant labor resources that restrict older people to be reemployed. A competition between old and young workers is unavoidable. Younger people these days argue that the knowledge older people have is likely to be outdated due to the quick pace of social and economic changes. There are also suggestions that older workers should retire earlier and leave more opportunities to young people.

If we look beyond the Chinese perspective, we see that older people are privileged to a certain degree, as they may be more sophisticated and have more life experience. On the other hand they might be stereotyped as old – indicating less energetic, even slow-witted and outdated from the evolution in technology. To fully exploit the value of ageing employees, our community needs positive attitudes and actionable policies.

For older people who are willing to work, how are young people or employers able to assist them with valid means of finding a job? Is there a job fair set up particularly for those productive older jobseekers? Are there any innovations encouraging mature Australians to participate, for example a retired worker who may be re-employed as a trainer? Is there a chance to create a new type of role for older workers who want to contribute? This could be something less labour-intensive and more, let’s call it, intelligence-intensive.

For younger people who are willing to work, how are the older workers or employers able to support them with established experience and wisdom? Is there a program founded by older mentors to support young people in their life transition process? The knowledge and wisdom of the older generation should be fully used, regardless of them being employed or not.

As a society we could embrace the concept of “a future without age”, for both old and young. If we adopt a positive mind-set, a win-win situation for workers of all ages can be achieved. This positive conflict of interest is calling for innovative jobs where old and young workers can help each other. Let’s call it “a job without age”.



  1. chrisan

    November 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Positive attitude

    The human mind can hold only one thought at a time prominently, since there is nothing to be gained . Everything in our Universe is made up of Energy and it is the Law of Attraction that brings it all together, this explains why atoms are attracted to some atoms and repelled by others. Everything is energy in motion. If one accepts this premise then: nothing is fixed, there are no limitations, and everything is vibrating energy: be it all inanimate objects, including our physical body, and also our thoughts, desires, experiences, and so on. Vibrations are all around us, they are in us, they affect everything we do, and in turn they are everything we do.