A new survey has found that older workers are more likely to experience some form of discrimination at work, including being made redundant before others, fewer training and development opportunities, inflexibility towards health and physical needs, and even verbal abuse.
In the over-50s, discrimination was found to be at its most severe among middle managers earning under $80,000 per year – they were twice as likely to have experienced age-related discrimination as those earning more, the Financial Services Council (FSC) found.
Older workers were also found to be more concerned over their financial security, and nearly half of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied or concerned with the amount of superannuation they had accumulated. In light of the aging population crisis in Australia, FSC’s John Brogden said attitudes towards older workers needed to change. “At current trends, by 2050 there will only be 2.7 working Australians for every citizen over 65. Without action, this will have serious implications for the quality of life of every Australian,” Brogden added.
National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said the result is the creation of an underclass more likely to experience social isolation, ill health and financial insecurity. He said the cost to the nation translates into a $10.8bn annual loss to the economy.
Alison Monroe from specialist ageing workforce consultancy SageCo said that age discrimination is still commonplace, particularly in the area of recruitment. “Recruitment agencies hide behind the excuse that clients stipulate the ‘age range’ of their ideal applicant – mostly falling into the ‘prime age’ group – whilst organisations tell us that their recruitment agencies simply don’t funnel mature applicants through the pipeline,” she said, adding that employers that rely on ‘youth talent’ are effectively shooting themselves in the foot because they are also weeding out experience and expertise within their organisation.
The FSC called for an end to the concept of full-time work followed by full-time retirement and a greater focus on creating more flexible work practices and schemes to encourage further workforce participation by older workers. “Australians remaining in the workforce for longer periods will stretch retirement incomes by supplementing superannuation through part-time work as well as reduce our nation’s skills shortage,” Brogdan said.
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