What needs to be done to stop age discrimination?

As Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan is across the issues that older Australians are facing.

Susan Ryan age discrimination commissioner

Having spent five years as Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan is across the issues that older Australians are facing. But is the landscape really as bad as we believe? Or are we blind to a lot of what actually goes on?

What was the biggest change you witnessed during your time as Age Discrimination Commissioner? Is there any one thing that did not happen, that you wish had occurred?
The biggest change I saw as Age Discrimination Commissioner was the increase in coverage in all forms of media of the existence of damaging age discrimination in the workplace. Not only did specialist publications, such as YourLifeChoices, give a lot of informed coverage of these issues, I was delighted that radio stations all over Australia were always keen to talk to me, and usually got massive responses from listeners. TV and print were also prepared to run stories, including high-level research reports as well as individual stories. What did not happen was the positioning of the economic implications of our increased longevity as a top priority for attention by governments. I have recommended a new cabinet role, a Minister for Older Australians, to ensure this priority and create coordination of employment, health, welfare, training and industry policies across Government. I am still waiting on a Government response to this proposal.

Do you think there is more that the older generation of Australians can do to improve their chances of equality in the workforce?
Older people themselves need to take action and be prepared to change. Older workers often do need to upgrade their skills and should see this as valuable professional development rather than as an embarrassing admission of being out of date. Older workers also need to adopt positive workplace attitudes to younger colleagues, and aim to develop intergenerational teams, rather than expressing irritation with the way some younger workers approach their tasks. Be prepared to mentor them and pass on the benefits of your experience, and be prepared to learn from them. Perhaps the most important thing to do as we get older is to look after our health. While some employers are committed to developing healthier workplaces, individuals need to take responsibility for their own health, because unaddressed health problems can cause people to lose their jobs too.

Is there an initiative that the Government could embrace that would help older Australians live a better life (i.e. with more social equity) in retirement?
I hope the Federal Government will roll out across the nation the Skills Checkpoint plan it has piloted at my suggestion. This is a scheme that facilitates any worker approaching middle age to get a skills analysis and some practical advice about where the local jobs are and what training is needed for them to qualify. This Checkpoint should be carried out before the older worker is retrenched, or finds that they are physically unable to continue their current role. In the case of workers in declining sectors, such as car manufacturing, they should get this advice so they can transition to a growth sector before their current plant closes. The cost of the Checkpoint could be shared between Government and employers, where they are large corporations, or in the case of small business by Government, with the individual making a contribution if possible. It would be a sound investment of public dollars and it would greatly support individuals to have longer and more productive working lives and thus save more for retirement.

What is the biggest mistake we make as a nation when it comes to our older workers/pensioners?
The biggest mistake we make as a nation is failing to realise that older people, in their 60s and even 70s, are often fit, healthy, keen to work and ready to take on new roles. The old stereotyping of over 55s as past their prime and of no use to employers must be abandoned. As a nation we continue to waste the great human capital held by capable, experienced older people who are willing to work. Pensioners are often willing to take on some part time or casual work to supplement their Age Pension and continue to contribute, but complicated benefit eligibility rules often make this not worth doing.

What is more concerning: the way in which older Australians are discriminated against in the work force or the general acceptance by society that people have a use-by date?
Although I have seen some progress in employment of older people over the last few years, ageism is still a huge blockage and causes poverty and despair to too many people. The prejudice in the workplace however, reflects a deeper community prejudice against older people. There is too facile an acceptance by the community generally that older people are inevitably slow, resistant to change, prone to serious health problems, and generally not up to much, in fact, past their use by date. Evidence shows all these prejudices are wrong and as generalisations, without basis, but they persist. The Federal Government needs to develop vast, long lasting communications campaigns to address these misconceptions. Government should work in partnership with business and community organisations to re-educate our whole society on the realities of older people and the great value that represent.


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    20th Oct 2016
    Why would you want to work passed retirement age. You are no-longer covered by workers insure. Insurance has deemed you as high risk. If you are injured its on you
    20th Oct 2016
    I actually think its a ploy to make older people stay in the workforce so they don't need Government welfare.
    Some elderly people can work on forever and they enjoy it. Most of don't and people age quite differently at the end of the spectrum.
    What I have found, like the elderly who drive a car when they shouldn't, don't realise they have reached the end on their working life span too. That's the point where others are carrying their workload and their resistance to new innovation hampers the companies future growth.
    On the other side of the coin when I was in the workforce the managerial positions were going to the 30-45 year old bracket and the first thing they wanted gone was anyone older or with more experience who would be keeping a critical eye over their performance. In fact they wouldn't even look at the resume of anyone older than themselves.
    21st Oct 2016
    Why sit on welfare when and if you have something to offer and gain Rosret?

    As you and Kev say, people age differently. True, some do not realise or appreciate their failings (this applies at any age) but appropriate relations/management can sort that out on an individual basis. It is always negative; unproductive, to assess people by group.That is all 'aegism' is, another classification used because one is too lazy to investigate the qualities and gains available or too ignorant to consider values other than their own narrow subset as being worthwhile.

    In their 60's, 70's and later legions of people need not "...hamper(s) the companies growth." or have "...others carrying their workload..." where they have something to give there is a price and a systematic involvement to suit. I know 90 year olds who could tell you that in a forthright manner.
    20th Oct 2016
    The fact that after age 50 you have Buckley's chance of getting a job is discrimination in itself. If older people gave a damn and organised they could bring businesses to their feet by vetoing their products. Age discrimination would stop within a week. Unfortunately only legislation can do what laziness does not do.
    Old Man
    20th Oct 2016
    I agree Mick but I am a little perplexed as to how legislation can help. My first redundancy came at about 50 after 35 years with the one organisation. I had multiple jobs after that, mainly through labour hire, and very few of them were permanent. I lost count of the number of applications for jobs for which I was fully qualified and experienced where mostly I got no response. Most employers are fully aware of how to not accept older applicants legally.
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    I agree with O.G and MICK, you can not legislate to make people act fairly in the job market. Myself, I would not like to be in a position where I had been given a job because the employer was forced to give it to me.
    In the current job market your application can be culled at any time before the interview process and you have little recourse to appealing the decision. I have served on many employment panels in my time and have yet to find any type of vetting, preferential weighting system or policy statement that will guarantee or improve the chances of those who are seen as too old, too young, too ethnic or too feminine or masculine.
    The only way to do it is to make it illegal to ask about age, sex, religion, ethnic background or specifics around time spent in the workforce. This in turn makes it impossible to relate one's experience and will all come to nothing at the interview stage.
    Jon S
    20th Oct 2016
    One of the major concerns affecting all older Australians is the ability to control their destiny. It should be a fundamental right for all humans to be able to decide when they want to cease living. This goes a lot further than voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill, it should cover those whose lives are so unbearable that they see no pint in living.

    Neither the ALP nor the Coalition support this cause. Why? Because the Christian Right seems to hold sway over both political parties. With 80% of the people supporting VE democracy is certainly not working.
    Not Senile Yet!
    20th Oct 2016
    Forget about Employers Prejudice!
    It is OUR OWN GOVERNMENT....that js Discriminating against people based on Age!
    Look at their constant attacks / cuts to Pensions.....their own Departmental policies of Getting Rid of DeadWood.....their Constant refusal to allow reasonable Part Time employment whilst on a Pension without Penalty.
    Employers follow the example set by The Government of the day!
    Current Governments have an 80"s mentality of Punishment & Discrimination to the Elderly ....they should encourage participation by non penalties and Lead Reforms to set an example!
    Labelling Pensioners as Welfare does not Help!
    21st Oct 2016
    Never forget Joe Hockey.

    After lecturing us on the need to be lifters, not leaners, and wanting to raise the retirement age to 70, he then retires at around 50 with an indexed for life pension of around $190,000 per year, then lands a plum job in the US and collects around another $250,000 a year from taxpayers.

    Assume that a worker, owning his own home retires at 70, and dies at 75. At a fortnightly rate of $776.70, he will cost the taxpayer around $101,000.

    Ignoring Joe Hockey's current earnings, at a conservative $190,000 per annum and that his cigars take him out at age 75, he will collect around $2.8 million in pension payments.
    26th Oct 2016
    yes max and he doesn't even live in australia anymore.
    HOW can that be allowed>>???
    20th Oct 2016
    What has happened to casual employment?

    What I mean is, the opportunity to work a half day rather than a full day. Have the unions blocked it, is it too hard to calculate the wages, is it given only to people who don't declare their income?

    When I look through "part-time employment" they seem to be permanent jobs without the paid leave and when I look at "casual", they look like permanent jobs where the employer wants to try out new people until they get the the right one. Twenty four hours a week is nearly always 3 full days

    I haven't seen flexible hours for ages, these would be perfect for highly skilled pensioners who are simply lacking in stamina.
    Old Man
    20th Oct 2016
    I found that there is a suspicion by employers of people who are prepared to job share or work a shorter week. Most employers equate a request to work a shorter week as a willingness to work no hours at all. To do so is to be labelled as lazy.
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    I think that the employment culture is changing quite rapidly, most the jobs that have been created recently are part time or casual, if you believe the Bureau of Statistics.
    And this is causing problems in itself where people are being counted as employed yet are not making enough to support themselves.
    The good part about it is it is much easier for employers to sack or take advantage of casual/part time staff. This is the governments idea of flexible work practices.
    20th Oct 2016
    Another part of the jigsaw is that when interviewed some people immediately 'prove' the stereotype as they claim to be 'too old to work', 'too old to learn new skills' 'too old to use cash card machines' and 'too old to do any physical exercise'. Understandable if they were ninety but some recent examples were ' old fellas of sixty' talking to the 64 year old journalist. I rarely hear such people refer to 'me' or 'I' they always speak of 'we' and 'us' and hecne become representative of all older people.
    Crazy Horse
    20th Oct 2016
    The plight of unemployed seniors who are still not old enough to claim the age pension but who can't get work because of age discrimination (and who all have votes) is a major issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The sad reality is that in the current economic environment anyone over 60 who has been out of work for more than 12 months is unlikely to work again

    Older Australians thrown out of work before reaching pension age with little chance of getting another job are forced to use all their savings and liquify assets just to survive while being constantly hassled by bureaucrats. So by the time they reach pension age they are already impoverished with no reserves for the inevitable emergency.

    There is solution. The "Mature Age Allowance" originally introduced by the Keating Government and removed by the Howard Government. The Mature Age Allowance was paid to those over 60 years of age who have been unemployed and registered for Newstart for at least 12 months
    20th Oct 2016
    One of the worst age discrimination practises is the one that forces defined benefit workers to either retire at the contract age or lose tens of thousands of dollars every year.

    Remembering these funds receive contributions after full taxation is paid so there are no tax concessional reasons to belong to one. In fact unfunded schemes even still levy tax on pensions.

    Once these very tricky super funds were wound up the regulations should have changed so that at the retirement age, either 55 or 60 the defined pension stopped and was locked in and the fund member then started an accumulation fund just like everyone else.

    Forcing these workers to retire or lose lots of money was discrimination based on aged.
    20th Oct 2016
    All pensioner's should band together and instigate a class action against This and the former Government for discrimination.
    20th Oct 2016
    If you are so concerned about age discrimination then why aren't you doing something about the discrimination of married couples being treated differently to all other aged pensioners. I worked for over sixty years and paid taxes, medicare levy but when it comes to the aged pension I am treated differently to others , for instance single aged pensioner get $225.00 a fortnight more than me as well as couples living in defacto relationships who claim single aged pension. This has been going on for far to long and I think it is about time that all aged pensioners are treated equally, and I don't want to hear"BUT TWO CAN LIVE CHEAPER THAN ONE" but this rule does not apply to those couples living in defacto relationships, or two people living in the one home and each getting single aged pension Fed Up _ Max Jackwitz
    20th Oct 2016
    Cranky, I don't hear couples on a pension complaining about the poverty line as much as the single pensioner. If they are in a defacto relationship then they are receiving the single pension illegally.
    They are the rules aged 18 or 100.
    But this article is about wanting you back in the workforce. - I think I'll leave that to Hillary and Donald! Heaven help the USA.
    20th Oct 2016
    Many of the comments on this site show that so far we Australians cannot cooperate together to form a more effective group. This is needed to achieve any kind of improvement for older people across our nation.

    Older people form almost half of the voting public in this country. Yet we do not have sufficient influence to protect and improve our lives and the way we are treated.

    When, WHEN are we going to get organised and make our growing numbers count?
    20th Oct 2016
    Simple answer... NEVER !! :-( Too many Glued On Libs !! :-( :-(
    20th Oct 2016
    Maybe the Labor party could help but you have to be gay to get their attention.
    21st Oct 2016
    BrianP- I observed during the last federal election that none of the pensioner parties got much of a vote. Even, had they formed a coalition they still would not have been elected. What does that tell you?
    21st Oct 2016
    HS -
    By your comment do you want to say nothing can be done to help us older people? Or do you perhaps have a suggestion how we can all benefit or influence Government?

    Do you have any constructive comment?
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    BrianP, HS, we don't have to elect politicians to influence government. Just look at how the Mining Companies, Tobacco/Alcohol Companies, Unions and other special interest groups hold governments to ransom. Admittedly they use money in the form of donations and Add Campaigns to get what they want, but we have something more valuable to offer or deny the government, VOTES.
    If the seniors of this country forgot their petty political biases and organised them selves into a cohesive voting block, we could make or destroy governments.
    We don't need a political party to represent us, we need an effective Lobby Group. If you look at the most effective Lobby Group in the USA today, it is the gun lobby, yet they have very few members, they just know how to manipulate those numbers in order to either support or damage a particular political party.
    26th Oct 2016
    Yes exPS you have made a very good point there.
    and by golly in our last election i'm sure the libs, got the jitters.
    Perhaps next time they won't be so lucky.
    if they don't behave this time. I'll bet they won't get in next time :)
    20th Oct 2016
    I agree with the other posted comment -where why would you want to work after your retiring age anyway and to put it into prospective it all depends on what you did during your working life. Meaning that not all industries are the same for example if you were a paramedic do you think he wants to be doing the same job at the age of 70- I don't think so or those people who work hard in agriculture,construction or any hard manual jobs- which puts your back in jeopardy I don't think so either Susan Ryan!-its okay if you sit on your arse in an office but take it to another prospective that people DO DIFFERENT JOBS! You just get treated like fodder anyway-so you tell me WHY?
    20th Oct 2016
    There is NO retirement age in Australia. You can retire at any age (or indeed never entre the workforce at all if you choose) if you can support yourself. There is only an age connected to applying for Government assistance - in this case the age pension.

    There are still a few jobs/professions that force you to stop working in that field at a certain age whether you want to or not, Judges (70yrs) Priests (75?) pilots (65yrs) are three that immediately come to mind, and there may be others where individual employers have placed an arbitrary upper age limit.

    People should be able to continue to work if they choose. And many do. There needs to be a change of mindset both in society as a whole and with us all as individuals. 60, 65 or even 70 is NOT old age anymore. Most of us have good health, and more abilities than we know what to do with. Stop thinking "I'm too old for this", change the internal language from "I can't" to "I can". After all "whether you think you can or you can't, you will be right!"
    21st Oct 2016
    Very well say .... and I hope others do something to exit the nice chair in front of the TV.
    Have an adventure go places build something yes KSS you are correct YES YES I can do and I did I am now building a new place small with all solar energy is simple and very very cheap.

    Yes I can do Thanks KSS you are correct
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    KSS, I think the point that Older63 has made is that you don't see many 60 year old Brickies around, you probably wouldn't see many 50 year old Brickies around either. You can use this argument for Electricians, Chippies, Plumbers, Tilers, Builders Labourers and that is just the building trades.
    And at that age even if you retrain for another occupation there are always plenty of younger more qualified people available for the same job. Nobody has to sack you for getting old and worn out, the time comes when your body just won't do what your brain tells it to do.
    There comes a time when you should ask yourself whether you should continue to do a job at a diminished level or pack it in and turn it over to a younger person who needs to make a life for themselves and their family. It may not necessarily be that you are making way for new stronger bodies, sometimes you need to make way for newer fresher minds with fresh ideas and a zest for the profession.
    Old Geezer
    20th Oct 2016
    I can't remember ever being discriminated against due to my age. If anything I am treated with more respect as I age.
    Old Man
    20th Oct 2016
    You have to get out more Old Geezer. If you haven't been discriminated against then you have never applied for jobs after you turned 50. Apart from that, I too have been shown respect in most other areas of life.
    Old Geezer
    20th Oct 2016
    I haven't applied for a job since I was in my early 30's as I have worked for myself for decades now. Why work for only pennies when you can have the pounds as well? I got sick of people getting rich on my labour and decided to have a go myself instead. I haven't looked back since. I have been very quiet of late due to my abnormal heavy work load. If a person my age can get more work then I want then I can't see why others struggle.
    21st Oct 2016
    Hey OG come to my new home in BALI .... solar energy (Free) Water (Free) ...You are invited
    I promise you a time of your life that you will never forget ..... he he he he ...come on do it do it
    21st Oct 2016
    Got free water, power and waste facilities here in Aussie without Bali's awful climate and crowding. Bali is not kn my bucket list.
    21st Oct 2016
    Agree Old Geezer - if you haven't been discriminated against, you sure haven't got out much.
    Old Geezer
    21st Oct 2016
    Ha ha maybe it more of a case that I don't let others control my life. I certainly don't wait in a shop to be asked what I want. I just walk up and ask.
    Old Geezer
    24th Oct 2016
    Only last week I had the MDs of two big companies sit up and take notice of me and resolve matters to my satisfaction. Anyone who knows me soon does and realises that I take no brush offs from anyone.
    20th Oct 2016
    I had to change from a very lucrative profession (Programme Manager) to a TAFE Teacher to be able to continue working but after 70 that was it no more jobs for me I still can teach and I have many many qualifications but no jobs so I decide to stop retire and have fun fun fun overseas on extended holidays and spend all my savings on the best hotels and best restaurants and best locations .... he he he he
    20th Oct 2016
    The Gov seems to be pressuring people into working longer to save on Pensions !We worked into early 70s but it took its toll ! Since then the Gov has upped our stress levels by continually talking about changing Pensions etc etc. Thats probably to kill us all off quickly with worry ! ! Part time casuals of any kind dont get their Super paid if they dont earn much - there are limits. Super is only paid about a certain income level.

    I'd be all for an Aged Persons pressure group ! As long as I dont have to organise it !
    20th Oct 2016
    I have little to no time for political hacks or affirmative actioned characters slotted into a nice little earner as some 'commissioner', 'board member of a QANGO', advisor to a sitting politician,or otherwise, and I see zero need for them to be re-positioned into a nice little earner for life, including continuing their excellent retirement funding scheme.

    That said - I believe any 'aged discrimination commissioner' should have actually seen the ropes at first hand, and found out what it is like to be shafted, at age 48, by the company you gave the utmost loyalty to for thirteen years to satisfy the ego urge of a manager headed for the door, and his 'need' to prop up his ridiculous ego by 'getting' someone else first.

    Then all ex-politicians and such should be forced to go out and compete in the open market for a job, like everyone else - long before they begin to pontificate to us peasants on how we could have done things better.

    It is THEY who should have done things better over the past forty years, in many, many ways.

    Thank you, Susan, for coming - we'll take your thoughts on board as we wind down to our age of 70 with not much but pension - enjoy your fat retirement along with your mates.
    21st Oct 2016
    So where are the jobs for elderly people? Seems to me it's all talk, media hype but no action. Sorry Susan, you may have meant well but you haven't succeeded in creating jobs for the elderly. And, should one day this be achieved then the elderly will be blamed for taking jobs from the younger people, like they did when we were middle aged, like they do now because they can't afford to buy a home and envy, and blame the retirees for it. It's a never ending discrimination against elderly people. Well, what goes around comes around, when the current young generation grow to old age they will suffer one way or another.
    26th Oct 2016
    yeh thats what i say too Hs. Its all a con job. Cause companies are going overseas it can all be made cheaper overseas. but mind you the quality will be shite. Sell all our metals overseas and it all comes back to us eventually, but won't be worth much and won't last the distance like the old stuff used too!
    WE aren't training the young any more, they are just roaming the streets willy nilly, learning how to be rude to those that helped them.
    or any older person in general. Not all are like that but many.
    The world is a changing place.
    21st Oct 2016
    By reading the comments it is obvious why other people get discrimated against. They whinge too much instead of just doing getting the job done.
    21st Oct 2016
    Age discrimination in all areas - will never stop. I was recently in Melbourne and decided to check out all the big new fashion label shops that have come in from overseas. I would never have found anything for myself (a medium size 14) as nearly all clothing was only in very small sizes - even a size L had a waist a 10 year old would struggle to fit into.
    But - as I live in a rural area, my grand daughter fit into the age group and clothing style and begged me to find her an item to wear for a special occasion. Do you think I could get anyone to assist me? - not a chance!! I am sure they looked at me as though to say - 'what are you doing in here? - we have nothing suitable for your age group'. I had money to spend - but NOT ONE shop assistant approached me to ask if they could help. But look like someone who could fit into their miniscule clothes? - they were swarmed on as soon as the stepped into the shop! I had money to spend - BIG money - and finally found the outfits at a local large discount centre. However, in one shop where I was ignored, I approached an assistant and explained that I was looking for a full outfit for my young grand daughter, and only then were they interested in me. I made an excuse and left. The only reason they ignored me was because I looked older than their desired demographic. Don't they realise that WE have the spending power?
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    When this sort of thing happens to me I make a point of buying what I need and walking into the shop later in the day with the oppositions bags in hand, to let them know that they lost a sale.
    26th Oct 2016
    the sad thing is sunset, they don't believe in service anymore.
    They don't employ the staff they used too, and most companies running on nix, and expect to make money at the end of the day.
    Service seems to be a thing of the past.

    hahaha thats a good play EXPs, i shall try that one day.....ONE day.
    but maybe not for a long time. Because now i will gloat, and say i don't buy my clothes from anybody. Sadly because i just can't buy for my size. SO i make my own. and they can all go to buggery lol
    23rd Oct 2016
    Started work at 13, and at 65 hand went out for the aged pension, THANKS
    ex PS
    23rd Oct 2016
    It is good that you are grateful for a well earned entitlement, I hope the retired life brings you joy and good health. You have EARNED it.

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