Age discrimination is insidious in Australian workplaces and needs to be immediately addressed said leading seniors advocate COTA Australia today following Treasurer Joe Hockey’s launch of the National Prevalence Survey of age discrimination in the workplace, commissioned by The Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Susan Ryan, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates said that the results of the survey showed that age discrimination is discouraging too many older people from staying in the workforce or looking for a job.
“It is extremely disappointing that more than a quarter of all Australians aged over 50 years had experienced discrimination because of their age,” said Mr Yates.
“Age discrimination is keeping older people out of the workforce. The research shows that about a third of those who experienced discrimination gave up looking for a job as a result.
“This is leading to older people who are willing and able to work feeling as though they have no option but to retire prematurely, begin to access their superannuation if they can, or try to live on the paltry Newstart allowance which puts them on the road to poverty. A quarter of all Newstart recipients are over 50 and make up a third or more of the long-term unemployed and a large proportion of discouraged job seekers who have left the active workforce.
“The experience of being discriminated against based on age is also very stressful and can have a damaging impact on a person’s mental health and self esteem.
“We can’t afford for these experienced people to be driven out of the workforce because they feel discriminated against. Keeping older people in the workforce benefits our whole society.
“As the recent Intergenerational Report acknowledges, there is a huge economic benefit in harnessing the wisdom and experience of older people through greater participation in the workforce but to do this we need to address the prevalence of age discrimination.
“We urgently need to better value older people in our society, who hold the key to balancing future budgets.
“Older individuals also benefit from staying in the workforce for longer and often experience better health and more financial security.
“Age discrimination in Australia has been ongoing for many years and we need to urgently find ways to address this problem.
“We need more sophisticated measures and incentives to address the problem of age discrimination and we also need to look at ways we can strengthen age discrimination laws.
“This issue further highlights the need to have a broad national discussion about all aspects of retirement and addressing age discrimination will be a crucial part of that.
“As part of this national conversation we need to explore ways we can better promote the contribution older people make in our society and in our workplaces.”
Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Jemma Williams 0409 510 879.
COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.