People over 50 desperate to find work in an ageist employment market are greatly offended by claims made by a Commonwealth government department that older people are happily retiring on the dole, COTA Australia said today.
The claims, made in the department’s submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee Inquiry says: “it is no longer acceptable for 55-59 year old job seekers to effectively retire on Newstart while undertaking a bit of voluntary or part-time work.”
COTA CE Ian Yates said the commentary completely ignores the fact that if you lose your job in your 50s it is extremely difficult to find another, which is why there are increasing numbers of older people on the Newstart Allowance.
“This is an outrageous slur on the efforts of thousands of older Australians who are desperately looking for work and yet constantly overlooked in favour of younger job seekers,” Mr Yates said.
“It’s bad enough that many people over 50 have to suffer the humiliation of multiple knock-backs by employers, despite their years of experience and clear ability to undertake the work. Now they have to put up with the Department of Employment laying the boot in too.
“The Department should shift their focus from going out of their way to offend older Australian job seekers and concentrate on ways to reduce the high incidence of age discrimination and look at ways to stimulate a jobs market for older people.
“It is appalling that a Commonwealth Department is so out of touch with the reality of the employment challenges facing older people.
“The evidence about age discrimination is clear and irrefutable, as Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has noted, and presents a most disturbing picture for many older job seekers.
“The government’s new Restart wage subsidy recognises that incentives are needed to encourage employers to hire older workers – and more measures are needed.”
Mr Yates said COTA and other advocacy groups had been calling for an increase in the Newstart allowance for years since people living on Newstart find it impossible to make ends meet and keep their heads above the poverty line.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that older job seekers just want to spend their time doing a bit of voluntary work while living on the paltry income provided by Newstart.
“Given the choice, older people want to have their wisdom, skills and experience recognised by being fully employed in meaningful paid work as they have been for the rest of their life.
“At the moment the Federal Government is trying to increase the pension age to 70. That means if you lost your job at 50 and struggled to find another you could spend up to 20 years on Newstart.
“I guarantee you not one older person is striving for that.”
Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774