Australia is lagging behind other Western nations in helping fight workplace ageism in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
A report by the Australian Computer Society has revealed Australia’s mature age participation rate is below that of comparable countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States - with perceptions of skills obsolescence a key factor in workplace discrimination against older workers within this country.
It highlighted the potential impact and economic costs of age discrimination in the ICT workforce, and lists recommendations for employers including introducing a self regulatory code of practice in this area for the ICT sector, and collaboration between government, industry and the Human Rights Commission to create attitudinal change amongst Australian employers.
ACS CEO, Bruce Lakin said: “Ageism is a growing reality in Australia - but so is an increasing awareness that workers 45 years and older represent a resource and knowledge base we need to continue to reinvest in.
“While age discrimination can be difficult to prove, its existence, increasing pervasiveness and negative impacts on mature workers and the workplace in general is undeniable. Age discrimination creates unacceptable levels of unemployment and underemployment amongst those over 45 years which has economic, as well as social and psychological costs.”
The Improving Age Diversity in the ICT Workforce Report, released by the ACS Ageism Task Force, outlines the significant underuse of older workers (aged 45 years and over) in the Australian ICT workforce despite a protracted period of skills shortages.
ACS Ageism Task Force Report recommendations:
1. Government, industry, industry and professional associations should partner to build a stronger Australian evidentiary base upon which to go forward – extent of ageism, impacts on unemployment, the reasons why it is happening, under-employment and hidden unemployment.
2. The Federal Government should specifically fund the Australian Human Rights Commission to actively develop and coordinate a national strategy, which includes the States and Territories, to address ageism across all Australian States and Territories.
3. The development of a government policy and framework to acknowledge and quantify the cost and other impacts of ageism, economic benefits to firms from employing older workers and to educate employers and employment agents on improving age diversity in the workforce.
4. The ICT profession, industry, employment agents and their representative bodies should form a task force to address the issue of ageism and develop practical solutions that can be adopted by employers and employment agents to improve transparency in the recruitment process and ensure people are assessed on the basis of their skills and capability.
5. The ICT profession, industry and employment agents in the ICT sector develop a self regulatory code of practice and ethical statement on addressing ageism and improving age diversity and transparency in recruitment processes.
6. Government and industry should develop and fund an ongoing education campaign to facilitate cultural and attitudinal change, address misconceptions and stereotypes around age and promote the benefits of a diverse workforce that captures the benefits of workers of all ages.
7. As part of its commitment to increasing the participation rate of older workers, the government should develop policy, regulatory and taxation incentives for employers to provide ongoing professional development and to retain and/or hire older workers. This could be done in consultation with the proposed task force from recommendation.