At The Superyacht Forum in November, representatives of the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) joined other industry professionals to lead a debate concerning crew hiring practices across a range of positions and whether youth and age plays a part in successful employment. Ahead of the session and following the debate, a survey was sent out to gather first-hand information and anecdotes from PYA members’ own hiring experience. After compiling almost 600 responses, the PYA has shared the results.

First of all, respondents were asked whether they had ever been told directly that they were too old for a given position on board a yacht. Just under 20 per cent confirmed that they had. “Recently [I] was not considered for a rotation position with another younger captain as our age difference was more than 10 years and they wanted a younger, very active crewmember,” one respondent commented.

Conversely, respondents were then asked whether they had ever been told directly that they were too young for a given position on board a yacht, to which a lesser percentile of under 15 per cent confirmed that they had. “When I was 25 and had been at sea for seven years in merchant and yachting, I was told I was too young and not suited for a second officer position,” remembered one respondent.

The survey then looked at promotions, asking whether respondents had ever been passed over for promotion for a person with less qualifications or experience than them. A percentage of just under 20 per cent confirmed that they had. One respondent made the controversial suggestion that; “Companies and owners tend to favour those who in their opinion are more prone to manipulation rather than people who have an opinion.”

Respondents were also asked if they had even felt such discouragement in finding suitable employment on board yachts due to a belief that age discrimination exists that they are actually considering leaving, or have left, the yacht industry as a crewmember.

Answers to this were split into two groups: those from respondents aged 39 years and under and those from respondents aged 50 years and over. Of the first group (aged 39 and under), only around 16 per cent replied that they had. Of the second group aged (50 and over), a much higher percentile of 45 per cent replied that they had, showing that the issue of ageism affects older crew much more than younger crew.

Off the back of these primary questions, the survey continues to ask questions around the subject in much greater detail. Overall the data gathered supports that age bias is experienced by a significant number of crew in the superyacht industry, and it is a particularly notable factor in allegedly limiting employment opportunities for those aged 50 years and above.

It is no secret that discrimination exists in the superyacht industry, whether it be based on age, nationality, gender or looks, which mostly comes down to maintaining a certain preferred appearance or atmosphere on board for the owners and guests. As mentioned in the survey responses, the specification for a captain or crewmember under or over a certain age may also come from management companies or the crew already on board. In all cases, however, it would be hoped that experience, skill and character would be the defining factors in a hiring process over age, as well as over other peripheral factors such as nationality, gender and looks.

To view the full PYA survey results, data and analysis, click here.

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