Australian employers 'actively' excluding jobseekers above 65

Just 1 in 4 HR professionals open to hiring older workers

Australian employers 'actively' excluding jobseekers above 65

Despite recruitment challenges, around one in six organisations in Australia have admitted that they will not consider hiring jobseekers aged 65 and above.

These are the findings of the 2023 Employing and Retaining Older Workers Survey, which sought the responses of 297 HR professionals across Australia to determine their attitudes towards older workers.

It found that 36% of HR professionals view employees aged between 61 and 65 as older workers. Another 23% said they considered those aged between 66 and 70 as older staff.

Only a quarter of the surveyed HR professionals said they are open to hiring a jobseeker aged 65 and above "to a large extent."

"Meanwhile, around one in six (17%) HR professionals say that they actively exclude people from employment by reporting that they are not open to hiring people aged 65 and over 'at all,'" the report said.

Recruitment challenges

These findings come despite 65% of the respondents saying they are facing recruitment challenges, according to the report.

These challenged recruiters were also less likely to consider older jobseekers, the report found, as the share of those willing to hire applicants aged 65 and above is "modestly lower" than those not facing recruitment challenges.

Dr Kay Patterson AO, Australian Human Rights Commission's Age Discrimination Commissioner, said this contradiction is costing employers opportunities.

"It means employers lose access to a ready-made talent pool, and older people who are willing to work lose the chance to contribute their talents to the workforce, life satisfaction, and financial security," Patterson said in a statement.

Employment barriers, benefits

The hesitancy on hiring older workers came as HR professionals face the following recruitment challenges:

  • Lack of older applicants (32%)
  • Perception that older workers lack the necessary tech skills (22%)
  • Salary high expectations that are too high (20%)

Despite this, majority of the respondents said there is "no difference" between older and younger workers when it comes to job performance. Older workers are also rated higher in terms of:

  • Better able to cope with stress
  • Better attendance record
  • More reliable
  • Greater awareness
  • More committed
  • More loyal

"Overall, the findings suggest that any reluctance on the part of HR professionals to employ older workers does not align with their experience of employing them," the report said.

Disappointing attitude

These attitudes towards hiring older workers are disappointing, according to Australian HR Institute CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett, who pointed out that organisations are doing themselves a disservice especially amid high levels of job vacancies.

"Our results show employment of older workers could help ease these shortages as there are too many workplaces where older workers are not being utilised to their full potential," she said in a media release.

For Patterson, employers just need to "shift their perspective" and "stop buying into myths" about older workers.

"Diversity is good for business – and that includes age diversity. This means the smart employers are providing workplace cultures which are attractive to employees of all ages, including the rapidly increasing number of workers who are 55+ years of age," Patterson said.

"Employers who lead by example and embrace age diversity will reap the rewards in terms of productivity, innovation, problem solving and workforce stability."

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