‘Product invisibility’: Aged workers facing barriers

Older Australians who seek to remain in the workforce are facing discrimination, according to a new report.

‘Product invisibility’: Aged workers facing barriers

Aging Australians are more likely to be turned down for positions when applying for work, a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has found.

One-in-ten  businesses surveyed by AHRC admitted to having an age limit on who they would recruit. In addition, 67% of Australians between the ages of 54-65 were turned down because of their age, with 50% over the age 65 experiencing the same.

AHRC referred to aging Australians as suffering from “product invisibility” due to being overlooked by the corporate world, regardless of what they are able to offer to an organisation.

AHRC attributed this age discrimination as stemming from pre-conceived notions about how mature-age workers think and behave. The report found that 37% of decision makers believed mature-age people didn’t like change. Thirty-three per -cent stated they think older people are more likely to be forgetful.

Other stereotypes some decision makers were found to agree with included: not liking being told what to do by younger people; difficulty learning new concepts or completing complex tasks; not liking working long hours; and preferring to avoid technology.

These factors, as well as more general concepts that don’t relate directly to work (more likely to feel isolated; more likely to be ill; more likely to be victims of crime) were found to influence the actions of many business decision makers, with AHRC finding almost half have negative concepts about aging Australians in the workplace.

Despite discrimination on grounds of age being outlawed, the overwhelmingly negative culture prevents protection for aging Australians. “It just doesn’t seem to have that sting to it. If you look at other things like religion and sexual preference … it’s so careful and there are stringent HR policies and other things,” one respondent said.

“It is vital we recognise that the growth in the number of older Australians provides significant and very real economic and social benefits and opportunities,” Susan Ryan AO, aged discrimination commissioner at AHRC, said. “It is my hope that it will encourage constructive collaboration between media, advertisers and corporate Australia to present older Australians in a more accurate, balanced and diverse manner that reflect more realistically their value, capability and experience.”

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