Age discrimination at work

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What is the extent of age discrimination in Australian workplaces? What can you do if you experience this? Susan Ryan has the answer.

The National prevalence survey of age discrimination in the workplace report recently released by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has revealed the prevalence, nature and impact of age discrimination in our workplaces.

This report is the first of its kind in Australia, and the results are disturbing. Over a quarter of Australians aged 50 years and over indicated that they had experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace in the last two years.

Age discrimination can take a variety of forms. The most common types of age discrimination reported in the study were:

  • limited employment, promotion or training
  • opportunities (52 per cent of people)
  • a perception that older employees have outdated skills, are slow to learn new things or will deliver an unsatisfactory job (44 per cent of people)
  • jokes or derogatory comments from managers or
  • colleagues based on age (42 per cent of people).

At the AHRC, we regularly hear from members of the public who report experiencing age discrimination in the workplace, or in the recruitment process, and describe the negative impacts this has on their health, finances and family life.

The results of this research indicate that 60 per cent of people who experienced age discrimination found that it affected their self-esteem or mental health, or caused them stress. Others also reported that it had a negative impact on their family or career, or made them consider changing their occupation or retraining.

Aside from the disastrous effect it can have on people’s lives, age discrimination is also a huge waste of human capital. Our report found that many people who experience age discrimination in the workplace subsequently give up looking for work or think about retiring or accessing their superannuation.

With the latest Intergenerational Report projecting that the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double by 2055 and that life expectancy will continue to increase, we simply cannot afford to waste the talents of people who are willing and able to work.

So, what can we do?

The key to removing age discrimination from Australian workplaces is for employers to overcome negative stereotypes of older people and realise their value as employees.

The AHRC has also recently launched a ‘Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination against Older Australians and Australians with Disability’. You can visit our website for more information.

Contact the AHRC for advice or to make a complaint if you feel you have experienced age discrimination at work.

Phone: 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 9888

Email: [email protected]

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Written by susanry


Total Comments: 5
  1. 0

    Well Susan Ryan does not suffer from mature age or gender discrimination. Just invent appointment such as Ambassador for Mature Age Employment, and appoint yourself. Bit like Natasha with a lifetime gratuity.

    I recall working for the Federal Government where written documentation advised of the policy to target out mature age males and appoint females. All mature age (over 50) males in my office were given a notice, putting them on notice to justify why they should be retained in their current positions. This was done under the very Labor Government of which Ryan was a Minister.

    Don’t believe it? This was part of the systemic targeting of the promotion of women.

    I have the paper somewhere from in the 1980s, but Your Life Choices can access it easier by themselves and authenticate it.

  2. 0

    I can also confirm this has been NSW State Govt ‘policy’ (circa 1996), when I was told that it was time to clean out the ‘old wood’ to make room for younger people with new, fresh ideas. Our western society, is excessively influenced by the publishing industry and all its forms of money-making media (tv, movies, social media, etc) not to mention the highly successful cos-medical industry! All promote and idolise youth and youthful appearances over knowledge, experience and what is real and valuable. Our society, driven by the desire for wealth or status, is all about business and making profits. Imagine, if funding for science and medical research was as heavily promoted as youth (or sport), what worthwhile progress could be achieved for society and humanity. Anything aged or old is not of worth (or respected), so is disposable just as easily as last year’s iPhone. Good luck Ambassador Susan in turning all this around!

  3. 0

    I was retrenched from a professional job at the tender age of forty-nine. I then spent the next five years continually being rejected because of my age. I heard just about every excuse under the sun from you’re too experienced to you’re too qualified.

    I did receive some assistance from Government bodies but it was more a gesture than a serious or determined effort to help me re-enter the workforce. In the end I found work overseas where age and experience are venerated. I met and married a wonderful woman and am still gainfully employed and very much in demand.

    Australia still has a lot to learn from its policies towards older workers. The government must find ways of encouraging or even forcing employers to take on older workers.

    I’m so thankful that I went overseas to find work. It gave me opportunities I’d never have found in Australia. In three years I will retire and return to Oz knowing that I will never again have to experience the humility of being “over qualified” but in reality being just too damn old at the tender age of forty-nine.

  4. 0

    Susan Ryan is showing us that she has absolutely no idea about the reality of aged discrimination……why???
    Because she lays BLAME or RESPONSIBILITY with the Employer and the Cultural acceptance that it is okay to CLEAN OUT THE DEAD WOOD of the Company Managers and HR Personnel instead of with the PURPATRATORS of this Cultural Disease!!!!!
    And just who are they???
    Why they are our Political Parties who have Governed Australia for the Past 30 years and have been responsible for ALL deliberately Cultivated Downsizing and job cuts to the Elderly (over 50’s) from Government or Public Service!!!!
    It was their lead that Industry has followed……based on ….oh it’s okay if the Government can do that……so can we!!!!!!
    They still allow all Government Sectors exemptions from the Discrimination Act & Aged Discrimination Act……it is there in Black & White printed within the Acts that Government is exempt!!!!
    It is there in the way they makes CUTS to Pensions and Pension Asset Tests continually to Balance a Budget that is their Fault it does NOT Balance.
    They (being both Parties) have continually attacked with Prejudice & in a Discriminatory Manner THE AGED or over 50’s!!!!
    They haves changed the Superannuation Rules continually to the Disadvantage of the Aged ..(who cannot fight back) for the only reason of Saving money from being accessed during illness or to disallow early retirement by putting up Barriers (Administrative) that make it impossible for the Average Sick Person to understand let alone comply!!!!
    This has been intentional by both Parties….whilst at the same time they have removed barriers by granting exemptions to the Middle to higher level of incomes through tax breaks and further exemptions based on their positions held…ie judges, lawyers, doctors & financial experts who are all able to afford SMF’s and accountants to run them……SMF’s have a whole different set of Rules and basically allow access at any age!!!!
    Shit does not Flow uphill….it Flows downhill!!!!!!
    Bad Policies that Discriminate whether by age or otherwise have the same foul odour as Shit!!!…..they smell of corruption within the Parties to allow a better deal to some…..they are designed so not ALL can use them…..and they are created to deliberately advantage only those who can afford access!!!
    Both Parties accessed the 4% tax being put aside to allow the affordability to Pay the Baby Boomers their entitled (because it was a written agreement to do so) Pension by mutual agreement during the 90’s mini-recession. They were supposed to put it back….but decided not to……due to continued budget Blowouts by BOTH parties borrowing to finance their Policies!!!
    All Political Parties since the 90’s have continued with a self interest policy of survival to regain Government …….only to invest in their own Ideals rather than what is best for the People!
    No Party deserves to receive a vote at all!!!!
    They have Sold it off to each other to gain favours or in the case of the elected Party……their members have to vote in favour of their party policy…..for fear of not gaining pre-selection for second term!!!
    Both Parties continually use the Past Your Use By Date to bring in Fresh Blood to be Elected……a direct Aged Discrimination Policy exists in all Parties and has done for the last 30years!!!
    However their Policy is that Aged Discrimination is okay within their own Parties and indeed vital to generate NEW Blood!!!
    The Real reason is because the Older and Wiser Politician is a wake up to the Party Manipulation of NEW Blood……it being easier to buy them off with a seat in Parliament!!!!
    It is time the Average Aussie woke up to the FACT that Party Machines only serve themselves and not the people!!!!!
    They need to understand that around the World in other Countries there is a movement against the Party System……simply because it allows and breeds Corruption from within!!!!!
    Our System was NOT designed to allow for these Vulture Type Parties…..It was design so people could elect an Independent Member….with no Party Ties… represent them and their views within our Parliament!!!

  5. 0

    As far as Age discrimination itself is concerned…..their should always be exemptions……particularly if the position demands a high physical load……where it is justified!!!
    However, BOTH Major Parties have used the exemption process to allow avoidance of accountability to anyone!!!!!
    They continue to do so with recent attacks on the Aged Pensioners and in changing the access rules to a disability pension as well…..preferring to pay only Unemployment Benefits that have attachments like compulsory job search requirements!!!
    They do so knowing that there simply are not enough jobs available to match the experience and qualifications required.
    They do so having put in place legislation demanding Certificate Level Qualifications (requiring two or more years fulltime study) but have made no provision or access ability for the over 50’s to attain such schooling.
    This is intentional……it is so they only have to pay someone over 50…..just the minimum.
    They have both played the Blame Game…either blaming each other or the Economy by labelling everything as Black or White or Right or Wrong.
    The Lifters and Leaners TAG by the treasurer is a CLASIC Example of same….either you are a Lifter (hard working tax payer) or your are a Leaner (Bludger who won’t get a job because your lazy) to divide the Nation and cause the electorate to divide and attack each other
    with a Black or White View!!!!!!
    Both Parties are Copying overseas Policies that have FAILED……but won the relevant Party Elections!!!!!
    Unfortunately for us…..most of those are Failed American Policies that have divided that Nation into a two Party System for 50years!!!
    We Can Do Better…We have done Better…..We are Australia!!!!!
    We have achieved MORE with LESS population than any Nation on this Planet……and we have done it in LESS Time and without Slavery!!!!
    We do not NEED to COPY ANYONE……We just need to create our OWN Policies…..without the Corrupt Views of these Party Machines!!!
    REBEL ……just as they did under the Southern Cross in the Miners licence system…..that was injustice in action… changing what you do next election!!!!
    Use their DONKEY HOW TO VOTE CARDS by reversing all the preferences and then put an Independent at NO.1.
    If enough people do this……NO Major Party will have a majority….they will need to for Government with the Independants……which means everything then gets a fair debate BEFORE it is Legislated!!!!!
    Those elected my find that they will have to work hard….just as we do… earn the over priced Salaries… in and day out….just as we do!!!!!!



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