European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 49–61 | Cite as

Hard and soft age discrimination: the dual nature of workplace discrimination

  • Justyna Stypinska
  • Konrad Turek
Original Investigation


The paper concentrates on the problem of age discrimination in the labour market and the way it can be conceptualised and measured in a multi-disciplinary way. The approach proposed here combines two understandings of age discrimination—a sociological and legal one, what allows for a fuller and expanded understanding of ageism in the workplace. At the heart of the study is a survey carried out in Poland with a sample of 1000 men and women aged 45–65 years. The study takes a deeper and innovative look into the issue of age discrimination in employment. Confirmatory factor analysis with WLSMV estimation and logistic regressions were used to test the hypotheses. The study shows that age discrimination in labour market can take on different forms: hard and soft, where the hard type of age discrimination mirrors the legally prohibited types of behaviours and those which relate to the actual decisions of employers which can impact on the employee’s career development. The soft discrimination corresponds with those occurrences, which are not inscribed in the legal system per se, are occurring predominantly in the interpersonal sphere, but can nevertheless have negative consequences. Soft discrimination was experienced more often (28.6% of respondents) than hard discrimination (15.7%) with higher occurrences among women, persons in precarious job situation or residents of urban areas. The role of education was not confirmed to influence the levels of perceived age discrimination.


Age discrimination Labour market Poland Older workers Ageism Employment 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Jagiellonian UniversityKrakowPoland

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