Over-55s are languishing without work, sparking calls for change

Thursday’s job figures were a step backward, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures showing that seasonally adjusted employment fell by 0.4 per cent.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg tried to play down the numbers, explaining that they still covered a time when parts of NSW and Victoria were still covered by COVID-19 lockdowns.

He suggested that these figures should bounce back next month, however, a report predicts that older Australians will see less of that recovery.

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The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) released its Faces of Unemployment 2021 report on Thursday, and it showed that when job opportunities were opening up post-lockdown these roles were mostly being filled by younger people, leaving 72,000 people aged 55 years or over at the back of the queue.

The report also highlighted that the pandemic had caused a long-term unemployment crisis and older Australians were massively over-represented.

It also slammed government policies that had shifted older workers onto unemployment payments, especially those over the age of 65 who would have previously received the Age Pension.

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Women are particularly affected, with 55 per cent of those on unemployment payments for more than five years being older women.

“Successive government policies have shifted older workers onto unemployment payments, especially women aged 60 years or more who previously received the Age Pension,” the report found.

“This explains why 55 per cent of those on unemployment payments who have received income support for five years or more are women.

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“These policy changes have been made without effectively tackling age discrimination in the labour market, which remains stubbornly entrenched.

“Despite concerns about labour shortage, many employers are still reluctant to employ older people.”

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said it was vital to recognise the role ageism was playing in the long-term unemployment crisis.

“It is ageism that makes us fail to recognise this as a national crisis,” Ms Krasovitsky said. “Most older Australians are living longer, healthier lives and they want, or need, to work longer. So, what’s holding them back? Ageism.

“There’s a very real prejudice that tells us that older people really are just unemployable, they’ve had their turn, and should just wait for the pension.

“If we want to maintain funding for essential services and infrastructure, we need to lift the labour force participation rates of older people who want or need to work. That means we have to address ageism at its root – the stereotypes, assumptions, and discrimination that currently lock older people out of work.”

Ms Krasovitsky said dealing with the issue of ageism in the workforce would require action from the government.

“We can’t keep turning a blind eye to this crisis, we need to raise awareness and to increase incentives for employers to hire older people,” she said.

“We need a sustained public and workplace education campaign to challenge the myths and negative attitudes and assumptions about older people in the workforce.”

Do you receive unemployment payments? How long have you been receiving these payments? Would you like to get back into the workforce? What have you been told by employers as you have tried to re-enter the workforce? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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