Prohibition of Discrimination

VI. Discrimination on the Ground of Age

Discrimination based on age is one of the most common forms of discrimination in Lithuania and the European Union.[1] This was confirmed by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office in practice, with complaints concerning age discrimination being some of the most common grievances: in 2013, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office conducted 24 investigations (9%) into discrimination based on age;[2] in 2014, out of the 279 investigations conducted by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, 30 (10.8%) concerned age discrimination.[3]

Age discrimination is most keenly felt in the labour market. 10% of the participants of the survey indicated that they feel discriminated against in a given area because of their age; almost 50% of them said they feel discrimination in the labour market. This response was more common among people aged 46 or above.

A study of Lithuanian public opinion on the discrimination of various social groups revealed that age discrimination was experienced by the greatest number of participants of the study, i.e. 8% (age discrimination was more prevalent among the older participants).[4]

This study also showed that age discrimination is most keenly felt in the labour market. 10% of the participants of the survey indicated that they feel discriminated against in a given area because of their age; almost 50% of them said they feel discrimination in the labour market. This response was more common among people aged 46 or above.[5]

In response to the question "Have you encountered prejudice based on your age when seeking employment?", 7% of the survey participants responded in the affirmative. 49% of them said that the employers were looking for younger workers.[6]

The situation of older people in the labour market is rather problematic in Lithuania: only 44.8% of Lithuanian residents aged 50 or above are employed.[7] In terms of employing older people, Lithuania ranks 9th in the European Union.[8]

At present, the situation in the labour market is much more favourable to young unemployed people than to their older peers. In 2013 Lithuania has paid special attention to the integration of young people into the labour market, and thus the number of young unemployed people fell by almost a quarter in the first half of 2013 – 24.7%; unemployment among older people decreased by 2%.[9]

According to the Lithuanian Labour Exchange, 19.1 thousand unemployed people under 25 years of age were registered in the country by 1 July 2013, with them comprising 5.2% of the country's population aged 16-24. There were 62.9 thousand registered employed people who were older than 50 in the same period; they accounted for 13.6% of their age group within the population.[10]

These figures are a result of programmes promoting the involvement of young people in the labour market. Thanks to them, the number of unemployed young people in Lithuania fell from 35 thousand to 19 thousand in one year.[11] However, it should be noted that although it is important and necessary to prioritize the employment of youth, it is essential to ensure that increased attention and assistance to one group does not become the discrimination of other groups.

In February 2014, an amendment to the Labour Code was registered with Parliament, which proposed to allow terminating employment contracts when the employee reached the age of 65.[12] The amendment sought to promote the involvement of young specialists in the labour market and to reduce the emigration of youth.[13] According to the provisions of the Labour Code currently in force, age is not a legitimate ground for dismissing an employee.[14]

It should be noted that the Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation stipulates that age discrimination is not allowed with regard to employment and occupation.[15] However, at the same time the Directive allows states to provide that different treatment based on age does not amount to discrimination if it is objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim, including legitimate employment policy, labour market and vocational training objectives, and if the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.[16]

Thus, in order to ensure that the planned amendments to legislation do not discriminate against people because of their age, it is necessary that the difference in treatment be justified by a legitimate aim, and to also demonstrate that the means of achieving that aim are necessary.

A 2013 study revealed that old age is thought very little of in Lithuania. This is not only done by the public at large – the elderly also think very little of old age.[17] The stigma of old age and discrimination against the elderly is stronger in Lithuania than in progressive European countries – in this respect, Lithuania is closer to post-communist and Mediterranean countries.[18]

The study also revealed that even important topics related to the elderly, such as the provision of pensions, are analyzed without actually asking their opinions, ignoring it, and as such there are strong noticeable trends of trying to drive these people out of decision-making.[19]

There were also practices in 2013-2014 that discriminated against children due to their age. In 2013, one company posted following information on its website: "Please be advised that from 18:00 children under 12 are not allowed entry into the restaurant. Thank you for your understanding." The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office drew attention to the fact that this practice lead to unequal treatment of persons under 12 years of age with respect to accessing goods and services in the restaurant and that it was likely that parents accompanying them would also be prevented from procuring goods and services solely as a result of coming with children under 12 years of age (associated discrimination), which is why the company was contacted and given the suggestion to remove the announcement.[20]

Even important topics related to the elderly, such as the provision of pensions, are analyzed without actually asking their opinions, ignoring it, and as such there are strong noticeable trends of trying to drive these people out of decision-making.

Findings and Recommendations

  • Age discrimination is one of the most common forms of discrimination in Lithuania, especially keenly felt in labour market.
  • Although it is necessary to prioritize youth employment, it is no less important to ensure that greater attention and assistance to one group does not turn into discrimination of other groups.
  • It is vital to ensure that legal regulations do not discriminate against people based on their age – in cases of different treatment based on age, it is necessary for the disparity to be justified by a legitimate aim, and to also demonstrate that the means of achieving that aim are necessary.
  • In order to reduce the stigma of old age in Lithuania, it is vital to promote the involvement of older people in decision-making, granting them a real ability to participate in the process, and to educate the public about the prohibition of all forms of discrimination.

[1] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, "Age Disscrimination", 13 August 2014, http://www.lygybe.lt/lt/amzius.html

[2] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2013, pub. 2014, p. 4, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/303/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%20veiklos%202013%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[3]Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2014, pub. 2015, p. 3, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/482/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%202014%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[4] Equal Opportunities Omubudsman's Office, "Study of the opinion of the Lithuanian public on the discrimination of various social groups", October 2013, slide 8, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/156/prezentacija%20-%20lygybe%20201310_galutinis.ppt

[5] Equal Opportunities Omubudsman's Office, "Study of the opinion of the Lithuanian public on the discrimination of various social groups", October 2013, slide 17, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/156/prezentacija%20-%20lygybe%20201310_galutinis.ppt

[6] Equal Opportunities Omubudsman's Office, "Study of the opinion of the Lithuanian public on the discrimination of various social groups", October 2013, slide 15, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/156/prezentacija%20-%20lygybe%20201310_galutinis.ppt

[7] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, "Report on the Study of the Involvement (Social Inclusion) of Older People in the Labour Market", 2014, p. 28, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/327/vyresnio%20am%C5%BEiaus%20%C5%BEmoni%C5%B3%20tyrimas_ataskaita.pdf

[8] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, "Report on the Study of the Involvement (Social Inclusion) of Older People in the Labour Market", 2014, p. 29, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/327/vyresnio%20am%C5%BEiaus%20%C5%BEmoni%C5%B3%20tyrimas_ataskaita.pdf

[9] Birutė Žemaitytė, "Youth employment programmes - discrimination of older residents (I)", balsas.lt, 31 July 2013, http://balsas.tv3.lt/naujiena/745792/jaunimo-uzimtumo-programos-vyresniu-gyventoju-diskriminacija-i/2

[10] Birutė Žemaitytė, "Youth employment programmes - discrimination of older residents (I)", balsas.lt, 31 July 2013, http://balsas.tv3.lt/naujiena/745792/jaunimo-uzimtumo-programos-vyresniu-gyventoju-diskriminacija-i/2

[11] Birutė Žemaitytė, "Youth employment programmes - discrimination of older residents (II)", balsas.lt, 1 August 2013, http://balsas.tv3.lt/naujiena/745796/jaunimo-uzimtumo-programos-vyresniu-gyventoju-diskriminacija-ii

[12] Draft Law Amending Article 129 of the Labour Code, 28 February 2014, No. XIIP-1542, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=466508&p_tr2=2

[13] Explanatory Memorandum to the draft Law Amending Article 129 of the Labour Code, 28 February 2014, No. XIIP-1542, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=466510

[14] Labour Code, 4 June 2002, No. IX-926, Article 129(3)(5), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=493843

[15] Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, Article 1, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/LT/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32000L0078&from=LT

[16] Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, Article 6, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/LT/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32000L0078&from=LT

[17] Indrė Urbaitė, “Respect for old age no more than an illusion?“, lzinios.lt, 23 May 2013, http://m.lzinios.lt/mob/loadStrN.php?rlinkas=Lietuvoje&linkas=pagarba-senatvei-tik-iliuzija-&idas=156277

[18] Indrė Urbaitė, “Respect for old age no more than an illusion?“, lzinios.lt, 23 May 2013, http://m.lzinios.lt/mob/loadStrN.php?rlinkas=Lietuvoje&linkas=pagarba-senatvei-tik-iliuzija-&idas=156277

[19] Indrė Urbaitė, “Respect for old age no more than an illusion?“, lzinios.lt, 23 May 2013, http://m.lzinios.lt/mob/loadStrN.php?rlinkas=Lietuvoje&linkas=pagarba-senatvei-tik-iliuzija-&idas=156277

[20] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2013, pub. 2014, p. 25 http://www.lygybe.lt/download/303/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%20veiklos%202013%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf