Ageism in HongKong

Japan Airlines has asked its Hong Kong-based flight attendants to disembark as early as their 35th birthday, and it is fair to say that most of these forced retirees think their premature superannuation has nothing to do with their ability to serve cocktails and meals and remind passengers to buckle up for takeoff and landing. It's patently obvious that these attendants are discriminated against for their age.

Sadly, there is no law on the book that prevents age discrimination.

Hong Kong's flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, who lost a sex-discrimination case to one of its female flight attendants that was forced to retire at age 45, responded by lowering the retirement age for its male attendants from 55 to 45. By making use of the fact that there is no mandatory retirement age in HongKong, technically, these companies are not breaking the law by setting the retirement age of their staffs.

However, this could make airlines lose their competitive edge of having an experienced crew on board that compensate for the fading beauty and youth. And how about a healthy mix of youth and experience? Would that not be the best game plan - with or without an age-discrimination law?

But, as long as business interests continue to wield disproportionate power in a city without full democracy, age discrimination will be common practice in Hong Kong.

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