New age discrimination inquiry

A new national inquiry is being undertaken by the Human Rights Commission, which aims to investigate the ‘disturbingly low’ employment rates of older Australians, as well as people with disabilities.

The inquiry, launched on Wednesday by Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan and Attorney General George Brandis, hopes to identify why older Australians are not being employed, and why they are not able to retain employment once they are employed. The commission will decide whether or not this is an infringement of their human rights, and will report back to Brandis in July 2016.

“The evidence is clear and undeniable: employment rates for older Australians and people with a disability remain at disturbingly low levels and that is largely as a result of discrimination,” said Brandis. “This is not just about them. It is about all of us and how as a nation, we want to treat our fellow Australians.”

Susan Ryan believes that there is a large number of older people being turned down for jobs because of outdated stereotypes about older workers not being able to learn new skills or more likely to be on sick leave more often.

“We know that these prejudiced kinds of attitudes are prevalent in the workplace,” said Ryan.

The intergenerational report released in March exposed some of the problems that will be faced by our ageing population in the future. These issues could be exacerbated should the federal government increase the retirement age to 70, with an increasing number of older Australians being forced to remain in the workforce for longer. Yet, how can this happen if employers are reticent to give jobs to older workers?

“The right to work is a core part of the enjoyment of individual rights and liberties. Where the right to work, free from discrimination, is affected, other rights become less meaningful, less able to be achieved,” said Brandis. “The importance of gainful employment cannot be [overstated]. It provides a sense of self-worth and of being able to make a contribution to the community.”

What do you think? Do you feel that there is obvious discrimination against older Australians when it comes to finding and maintaining employment? Have you had personal experience of this type of discrimination?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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