Discrimination against older workers

Retirement doesn’t always pan out as one may hope and when money gets tight, going back to work may seem like a solution but, for many older Australians, this proves to be difficult.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about one third of older Australians who need to work, have given up hope of ever finding a job because employers think they are too old.

Such is the case with Bob Massie, 77, who, after ending a 38-year teaching career in 2001, needed to return to the workforce for financial reasons. Despite being only 65 at the time, he struggled to find work, even in the local pizza place. Eventually, he found work as a tutor. Of the experience, Mr Massie said, “When you get laughed at not once, not twice, not three times, but four times… and told ‘look don’t even bother applying because there’s nothing for you’, you feel like telling a few people where to go, and not in very nice terms either I might add.”

Although not all from older people, 68 per cent of all age discrimination complaints to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission are about employment.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said unemployment was “a national disaster. It’s a disaster for them and a disaster for our economy.” On the cost to the economy, “We lose over $10 billion a year by having people unemployed, who could be employed were it not for age discrimination,” she said.

As Australians are living longer, the cost to the government is greater than ever before. Released this week, figures show that 140,000 Australians aged between 50 and 64 are claiming Newstart Allowance, a payment which is made to those seeking work, from Centrelink. Many could and should be working to help themselves financially and to relieve the strain on an already tight social security budget.

For the past decade the number of people working past the normal retirement age of 65 has been increasing and this trend is likely to continue.

Read more at ABC.net.au

Opinion: Employers missing a trick

Finding a job after retrenchment or when returning to the workforce isn’t easy for anyone; your confidence may be down, your skills a bit rusty, or the job you trained for may no longer be available but, when recruiters see that someone is over 50, the likelihood of them being employed is drastically reduced. It takes on average a year for someone in their 50s to find a job, so you can’t help but think that discrimination against older workers is rife. This is where employers are being short sighted and quite frankly, missing a trick.

Of course, we can’t generalise and say that all older workers would be an asset to any business, not all have a great work ethic, but with many years life and work experience behind them, older workers do tend to be a safer bet than a younger worker. Yet time and time again we hear that older workers are finding it impossible to secure employment when retrenched, or returning to the workforce after taking some time out.

According to a 2010 study by the Department of Business Work Ageing, Swinburne University, the reality is that older workers:

  • are just as productive as younger workers
  • are not more costly than younger workers
  • use experience to offset any decline in cognitive ability
  • are quite capable of learning new skills
  • perform just as well as younger workers
  • are interested in career and self-development
  • are often more flexible than younger workers
  • contribute to a diversified workplace culture
  • do not necessarily want to retire.

So, if you’re one of the many older workers who is out there job searching, or considering looking for work to supplement a pension, arm yourself with the facts above. You might also find these 10 work websites useful.

Have you ever experienced age discrimination in the workforce or when looking for work? Do you believe that older workers have more to offer than their younger counterparts? Are there other areas where you think age discrimination is rife?

Written by Debbie McTaggart