No end to age discrimination

With experts claiming that discrimination against older workers is already blatant and systematic, pushing the Age Pension age to 70 will only make it worse.

According to figures from the Victorian Human Rights Commission, 61 per cent of the age discrimination complaints received are related to employment and commissioner, Kate Jenkins, said discrimination in the workforce started from about age 45. Older workers are more regularly chosen for redundancy and those as young as 50 are often asked when they are going to retire. Ms Jenkins raised concern about the clear culture of age discrimination in the workforce and that raising the pension age will only make things worse, ”I think we will continue to get complaints, unless we as a community really change our attitude to older workers.”

Complaints to the commission included a 53-year-old being ridiculed for enrolling in a massage course and being told she was too old to massage in Australia.

Kamal Farouque, principal of employment law at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said that age discrimination appeared to be more acceptable in the work place than that of race or religion. ”People make jokes about people’s age in a way which they probably wouldn’t readily do about race,” he said. ‘I think there’s a big disjunction between social perceptions of acceptability of age discrimination and the legal prohibition on it.”



Opinion: Time for respect to return

If they don’t learn the importance of respect, employers are in danger of losing out on employees who can contribute more than their younger counterparts.

I often hear that respect has to be earned but if people are not given the chance to prove themselves, then how can that be so? Common courtesy costs nothing yet it seems as though we’re only too happy to make life difficult for people based on a perception, in this case the perception that older workers are less valuable. How dare we think that its acceptable to tell a 53-year-old woman that she’s too old to massage, or ask someone in their 50s when they’re planning to retire. Where is the respect in such actions? It’s non-existent, but that’s because society has made it so.

No longer do people give up their seats on trains and buses for those who are older. Often we think it’s acceptable to huff and puff when stuck behind an older, slower person walking when we’re in a rush. And we’re quite accepting of the terms of ‘seniors’ and ‘pensioners’ applying to anyone over 50 these days. Turn on the television and you’ll see ads for opticians poking fun at older people needing glasses. Or shows with jokes about someone advancing in years who can’t remember where he put his spectacles. Where’s the respect in any of this?

It’s no secret that, as we get older, we perhaps can’t do the same physically as our younger counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for the scrapheap. What it means is that it’s time for employers to evaluate the contribution of what individuals bring to the workforce and use those talents accordingly. It’s time to stop focusing on age and start rewarding talent, experience, maturity and achievement. It’s time to respect those worthy of it and remember that experience often counts for more than youthful exuberance.

Have you ever felt discriminated against because of age, either in the workforce or society in general? Do you cringe at older stereotypes on TV or do you think we take things too seriously and should be able to laugh at ourselves?

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