Officials are refusing to legislate against age discrimination despite a government-commissioned study showing more than 80 per cent of people think it exists in Hong Kong. The study also found almost as many regard such discrimination as acceptable. The survey of 2,146 people was commissioned by the Education and Manpower Bureau. It found 82 per cent of people considered age discrimination existed in Hong Kong's job market, and 65 per cent considered the situation 'serious'. Thirteen per cent said their failure in job applications was related to age discrimination. However, 79 per cent said it was 'acceptable' for employers to choose employees in a specific age range. The service industry topped the list of complaints about age discrimination with 30 per cent, followed by employers of manual workers with 26 per cent and of clerical staff 25 per cent. In a separate survey of 998 companies carried out by the bureau, 73 per cent of employers admitted age discrimination existed in recruitment and 87 per cent considered it acceptable to hire staff in a specific age range. About 80 per cent of employers did not have any written guidelines to guard against age discrimination in recruitment. The study also examined 20,573 job advertisements and found 8.2 per cent of them stated an age requirement. The situation was most serious in the retail, tourism and the import and export sectors. Officials insist there is no need to legislate against age discrimination. In a Legco paper to be discussed tomorrow, the bureau states: 'Given the divergent views amongst the public and employers on the need and effectiveness of legislation, we do not consider that there is consensus in the community on the issue. We remain doubtful that there is a genuine need at this stage for the introduction of legislation on age discrimination.' Unionist and legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said it would be difficult to change employers' attitudes and recruitment practice without a law. Mr Lee said he would organise a group of middle-aged workers to protest on Labour Day on May 1 and to press for an anti-age discrimination law.