It is a general rule that legislation often has the opposite effect to that intended, and that government action usually hurts most those that it is intended to help. We have a beautiful example reported in The Times today. One consequence of recent legislation to outlaw age-discrimination, is that Saga, provider of holidays tailored to the over-50s, is to be forced to open its holidays to all ages. If a group of 18-30-year-olds wish to book a Saga holiday and behave as they would on a Club 18-30 holiday, Saga are not allowed to prevent them.
David Cameron has suggested reforming the laws on minimum age limits. In many ways, not before time. It is clearly a nonsense that 17 year olds can own a gun but have to wait to 18 to buy fireworks. But he also says that he would like children who have demonstrated that they are responsible citizens to be allowed to become adults earlier. Uh-oh. What next? An adulthood test? Armies of adulthood assessors? An Office for Adulthood Entitlement?
Age discrimination is self-defeating. Companies that employ less suitable people simply on the basis of their age will do worse than companies that employ the most suitable candidates regardless of age.
But that is not the same thing as saying that age and experience are not often relevant to someone's suitability for the job. Legislation trying to prevent companies from discovering the age of job applicants is not only bound to fail, but also ought to fail (Daily Telegraph, 26 Sept 2006, p. B7).