May Day

It’s May Day!

May Day is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival with eating, singing and dancing round the delightful Maypole in simple agrarian societies.

Maypole

A less cheerful origination of May Day was from the late 19th century, when 1st of May was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago.

What the heck is Second International? and how did the mostly capitalist countries around the world adopt a socialist and communist practice? Well I’m not a political science expert but there must be capitalist elements in a communist system and vice versa. China is an excellent example.

What about this Haymarket affair which happened some 130 years ago when a peaceful workers’ rally for a 8-hour workday went terribly wrong and both sides of the law were implicated and vindicated.

Mayday 8hours

I suppose labour issues are universal and perpetual. Workers all over the world face similar discrimination and abuse in varying degrees and forms.

But today, we are dealing with a new kind of worker problem – the older and active workforce.

There’s been a lot of talk about ageism in the labour market, the rise of middle-age interns, displacement of mature workers, and the woes of older people once contributing to the growth of their economies who are now placed on the shelf until they disappear off the shadows on the employment ledge.

Last week I had to write a rejection letter to an experienced corporate executive who is content to take on a junior role. At 61, he still has the enthusiasm despite a string of disappointing career breaks. Tried my best to fit him in but other candidates are far better matched for the job. I am sorry, I told him and invariably put him on the shelf.

May Day has been always a convenient public holiday, a time to plan for holidays with friends. But this year especially having to write that awful letter, I felt a sense of hopelessness for people my age and older who are looking for work out of necessity.

It’s a race against time, a race against a depleting savings pool. It isn’t so much about 8-hour workday or ambitions for mature job seekers. It’s more to do with a dignified life, having somewhere to go to every day, a reason to wake up every morning, people around you, stimulation and challenges, and at the end of the month a reasonable compensation for the work put in.

It isn’t easy for mature job seekers. Many have specialist skills in specific areas in their industries. Or at least that is how they present themselves in their CVs. On the other hand, employers look for transferable skills and relevant experience that can contribute directly and immediately to the overall performance of the organization.

Yes, it isn’t easy but one has to try. Keep up with the times, learn new skills and bring back your old school and work ties. Don’t give up. There’s a job for you somewhere.

Best wishes this May Day.

Joan Yap

 

 

 

 

 

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