THE Labour Department yesterday announced a new 'job-matching' scheme to find work for older women, only for one of its principal architects to say it was reasonable for employers to take on youngsters. The scheme, expected to be used largely by women in their 30s, opens its doors for the first time tomorrow. But Chow Tung-shan, executive director of the Employee Retraining Board (ERT), which drew up the programme with the Labour Department, said: 'It is reasonable for employers to hire only young people, due to their business nature.' The ERT chief was responding to questions about widespread age discrimination by employers at bakeries, fashion boutiques and other retail shops, who advertise for 'salesgirls' in their teens or early 20s. 'If the customers are predominately youths, it's reasonable for the employer to hire younger people,' Mr Chow said. '[But] if an employer refuses to employ a person without any reason, this is age discrimination.' Older job-seekers should concentrate on finding jobs in areas where employers did not mind employing older people, such as in restaurant catering and property management, Mr Chow said. The new job-matching programme will assess applicants' preferences and training needs, referring them to selected interviews with employers who reported corresponding vacancies. Retraining courses are also provided to help job seekers gain new skills. In 1994 100,000 people registered with government employment services, but 65 per cent were aged over 30. Only 17,000 job seekers managed to find jobs. Commissioner for Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said the job-matching programme could encourage employers to employ older people. The new programme also aimed to provide more jobs to local workers. 'It's always the problem that employees can't find any jobs, while employers can't find people to fill in the job vacancies.' Acting Assistant Commissioner of Labour Angela Ho Choi Wai-yee said restaurant owners - who were trying to fill thousands of job vacancies - had welcomed the project. Federation of Trade Unions' spokesman Chan Yuen-han welcomed the new programme but said some employers could prove unco-operative. 'There's no strict penalty that could be imposed on the employers if they continue to import foreign labour. This would greatly reduce older people's chances of employment.'.