Is age discrimination in the work place and recruitment a real thing? Or is it that we only hear the stories of those who feel they have been discriminated against? If you believe the pundits once you hit fifty you’re considered to be “old” in the workplace. That’s even though in places like Australia, Canada and New Zealand the official retirement age ranges between 65-67 years old. In other words, if 50 is to old for the work place and you can’t get a job then what do you do for the remaining 15-20 years ahead of the official retirement age?
In Australia the Government announced a policy whereby they would subsidise up to $10,000 per employee over a certain age – the problem is that the program hoped to attract 32,000 and yet only 3,000 ended up involved. It is in stark opposition to a finding in an Australian Government report that if workforce participation increased by just 3% in the over 50 age group the nation’s GDP would be boosted by more than $33 billion.
What could really blow your mind is the extent of the problem. Federal Attorney General, Senator George Brandis, asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to examine the barriers to employment for older people and this is what they found:
People aged 55 years and over make up roughly a quarter of the population,[i] but only 16% of the total workforce.[ii] We know from the 2015 Intergenerational Report that this age cohort is the fastest growing in Australia, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Labour force participation declines with age. In November 2015, 73.8% of Australians aged 55–59 years were participating in the labour force, with 56.5% of 60–64 year olds and 12.7% of those aged 65 years and over in the labour force.
Older people face longer periods of unemployment. In November 2015, the average duration of unemployment for mature age people was 68 weeks, compared with 30 weeks for 15–24 year olds and 49 weeks for 25–54 year olds.
In the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2015 National prevalence survey of age discrimination in the workplace, 27% of people over the age of 50 reported experiencing age discrimination at work. A third of those who had experienced age discrimination gave up looking for work.
In 2014-15, 70.9% of complaints made by people over the age of 45 about age discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission were in the area of employment.
The Human Rights Commission also noted that:
“Most workers at mid-life need a retraining opportunity so that they can secure an available job in a growth industry. The current gap in reskilling opportunities for mid-life workers, particularly those in declining sectors like manufacturing, condemns many able and experienced workers to years of poverty on benefits.”
“Another challenge, and one that will only escalate as our population ages, are the negative attitudes and treatment experienced by people who have caring responsibilities. We are all likely at some stage in our lives to care for a family member who becomes unwell or has a disability. It is clear that more access to flexible working arrangements would help keep people with caring responsibilities connected to the workforce.”
Commentator Jenny Brice had this to say recently:
“To add to the problem the definition of an older worker is getting younger. It appears to be going down in five-yearly increments. Forget 65 think 50 or even 45. For redundancy purposes if an employee is 45, they are defined as an older worker. They receive small extra payments for the privilege. They then enter the world of unemployment where it takes an average of 72 weeks for them to re-enter the workforce in some capacity.”
“Workers are becoming so fearful of being classified as old they are spending big dollars on keeping themselves looking younger. Research shows that one of the primary reasons women go under the surgeon's knife is to ensure employability in the workforce. As an executive coach and facilitator, working in corporate Australia, I am aware of the level of fear. That fear is not only confined to women it just starts earlier for them.”
Is age discrimination a thing where you live and work? Comment below – we’d love to hear from you.
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