Canberra announces plan to employ more older Australians

The ACT government has announced an age-friendly plan that values the contributions and employment of older Australians to support Canberra’s ongoing development as a city.

The plan includes a campaign to encourage local businesses to provide employment opportunities for older residents.

The ACT government also plans to promote flexible work policies and grant greater employment opportunities for older people in the city across the whole of the government sector.

ACT minister for seniors Gordon Ramsay said the plan also included improving the volunteer administration system at Transport Canberra and City Services to better support older volunteers.

In 2018, older Canberrans participated in the Age-Friendly City Survey, which asked them to share their views and experiences on what was working well and what needed to improve.

According to the survey results, nearly a third of respondents said they had been subject to age-based discrimination, including being made to feel invisible or underestimated when shopping or in the workplace.

YourLifeChoices research reveals that ageism is a major problem in the workplace with 23 per cent of members polled saying they first experienced ageism in the workplace in their 50s and 21 per cent in their 60s.

“Older members of our community are an asset for our city. We can all learn from their knowledge and experience,” Mr Ramsay said.

“They make enormous contributions to our society through caring for family and friends, volunteering, advisory roles and broader community participation.

“In turn, it is our duty to ensure that older Canberrans are acknowledged, heard and cared for and that we adapt our services to suit their needs as their journey through life continues.

“We recognise that this is a challenging time for all in our community, but it is a particularly difficult time for our older Canberrans.”

Robert Tickner, co-chair of advocacy campaign EveryAge Counts, says the community sees employment as a priority area for challenging ageism towards older people.

According to EveryAge Counts research, ageism in employment is responsible for many of those who lose their jobs remaining jobless for much longer than younger unemployed people and many simply leave the labour market altogether, deeply discouraged. 

Mr Tickner said that tackling ageism in employment was one of the most urgent challenges facing Australia.

“If you add the deep structural problem of ageism into the current economic downturn and mass unemployment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, you have a recipe for disaster for older workers,” he said.

“Younger workers are, of course, also facing great challenges and long-term impacts coming out of the pandemic and it is counterproductive and damaging to pit the needs of one group against another. This should not be a zero-sum game.

“But what we do know about unemployment at older ages is that a mature age worker has to overcome negative stereotypes and age discrimination on top of underlying economic stresses in a competitive labour market.

“Ageism is bad for business too, limiting access to an entire pool of skill and talent simply based on chronological age. 

“In addition, it strains government budgets to support long-term unemployed, older job seekers and people retiring earlier with lower levels of personal savings and superannuation than might have otherwise been the case.

“We congratulate the ACT government for recognising that mature age employment is a key plank in an age-friendly city and including this in its new plan.”

Other areas of the government’s plan address the barriers older Canberrans have said they face in living free from abuse, staying mobile, remaining socially connected and having good access to services.

Some of the other actions under the plan include:

  • introducing legislation that makes elder abuse a criminal offence
  • implementing a strategy that supports the mental health and wellbeing of older Canberrans
  • working to make ACT government shopfronts and local areas dementia-friendly
  • continuing the roll-out of the Age Friendly Suburbs Program.

Do you think more states should follow Canberra’s lead when it comes to supporting the employment of older Australians in the workforce?

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Written by Ben

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