Congratulations Ambassador Ryan

In what she describes as a ‘natural extension’ of her role as Age and Disability Commissioner, Susan Ryan has been appointed as Australia’s first Ambassador for Mature Age Employment.

Her task will be two-fold. Firstly, to convince employers of the benefits of hiring and retaining older workers. And secondly to improve the workforce participation rates of older people. Treasurer Joe Hockey announced the appointment last Wednesday at the relaunch of the Restart Program, which offers subsidies to employers who hire older workers.

Said Ms. Ryan, “Many employers have in their head beliefs that once people are over 50 it’s downhill all the way, that they can’t be retrained, that they’re not going to fit in, they’re not going to be productive. All of those ideas are wrong – wrong, wrong – and we have to change them.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission has also launched ‘Willing to Work’, a national inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians or those with a disability. Submissions opened on June 26 and will be taken until December 4, 2015. They can be lodged online and consultations are being conducted in all capital cities and some regional centres from July to November 2015.

YourLifeChoices congratulates Ms. Ryan on her appointment as Ambassador, a role for which she is eminently qualified. Those with an interest in the plight of older workers are encouraged to read the discussion papers and submit their feedback and/or attend the consultation sessions.  

Read about the new role of Ambassador for Mature Age Employment

Hypocrisy rules

What a hypocritical view we have of the value of older workers when we have to beg employers to hire them, but expect them to provide one third of the care of children of working parents – for free.

The appointment of Susan Ryan to the role of Ambassador for Mature Age Employment is a great move. But how sad it should be necessary to ask this busy lady to tell employers what they should already know, what the research has already proven and what age discrimination laws demand; older workers add value to the workplace and deserve respect, training and an equal opportunity to be hired. In recent decades, many companies have paid lip service to the positive benefits older workers bring to their roles, but factually many older workers are refused training, told they are ‘past it’ and tend to be the first to go when a restructure is required. Many of those aged over 55 take more than a year before finding new employment, with some drifting into retirement as they simply cannot get a job.

So more needs to be done to help those who want to work longer – and those who need to, with Age Pension eligibility now heading to 67 – and perhaps 70 if the Abbott Government can successfully prosecute it’s preferred policy.

So older workers need a knowledgeable ambassador and Susan Ryan is just the person to do the job. We are delighted for Ms. Ryan, who is a valued contributor to YourLifeChoices quarterly Retirement Update and recommend her most recent article on what to do if you experience age discrimination at work. 

But in a somewhat ironic coincidence, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released data last Friday confirming that grandparents provide childcare for almost one-third of children of working parents. In some cases such care is remunerated, but in most it is not. The value of such childminding is neither measured, nor included in the GDP. It is simply assumed older workers will offer this service free of charge, out of love for their grandchildren. Which most do.

So how can so many older workers be considered competent enough to look after their own children’s most prized ‘possession’, the grandkids, and yet be ‘past-it’ when it comes to paid work? Go figure.  The hypocrisy of our society on this matter is breathtaking. 

What do you think? Do we need an Ambassador for Mature Age Employment? Or will employers simply ignore their obligations to older workers anyway? And should grandparents continue to provide care for grandkids free of charge – or should they be paid? How about a grandparents’ strike? Or is this going too far to make a point?

Written by Kaye Fallick



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