Friday, 23 January 2009

Old Boys Not-Work

A lot has been written and said about the priorities of the Commission’s recruitment policy in recent years. Sure, we all agree for the need to make room for — typically younger — officials from new Member States. And who disagrees with the fact that we should employ more women, in particular in management positions?

But what is the flip side of the coin? In the process of recruitment and in particular mobility, who are the ones being left behind? My guess is that at the bottom of the pile you will find officials who are:(1) older (ie. over 50), (2) male, and (3) from old Member States.

It is becoming increasingly clear among colleagues that while most officials still feel that they have a number of good years left in them by the time they reach 50, if they have not reached (or perhaps ever wanted) a management position, the system is at a loss to deal with them, and their careers are from then on basically at a standstill. And the magic number “50” scares off a number of potential employers so mobility is hard to come by.

To many colleagues over 50 the fact that you cannot count on being promoted any more may be a manageable fact of life. However, what is not OK is the fact that mobility becomes very difficult after 50, in particular if you are not among the priority groups (women, new Member States).And the idea of being stuck in the same job for another 5-15 years before retiring is very difficult to bear indeed. It is highly demotivating for the official and does not make any sense in terms of a rational utilisation of the skills of these experienced, highly-skilled and highly paid officials.

As an example — and yes, I am over 50 — over the past 3 years I have applied for around 15 different jobs and been interviewed for more then half of them. While the jobs in most cases undoubtedly went to better qualified candidates, I was in two cases informed (orally, not in writing of course) that “you are the best candidate but we cannot give you the job because we have to take someone from a new Member States”. In one further instance I was even told that it had to be a woman from a new Member State. So I remain where I was.

If the Commission is really at a loss at what to do with the over — 50s — in particular the old guys from old Member States — could it not with a minimum show of respect consider publishing “dégagements” for officials all the way down to 50 years of age? That would allow some of us to spend our remaining active years putting the valuable skills we acquired during 20-30 years in the Commission to use outside the confines of the institution.

At the same time it would free up lots space for younger and/or female officials, in particular from new Member States. After all, you can probably get three young officials from a new Member State for the price of me.

Louis Hersom
employee at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement
in 'Commission en direct' #481, 6-12 June 2008

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