Staff as young as 45 facing age discrimination: Study

by HCA28 Apr 2017
More than 30% of Australians have experienced age discrimination while employed or seeking work in the past 12 months, claims new research by the University of South Australia.

The most common form of discrimination involved negative views about the skills and learning abilities of older workers, according to the national survey of 2100 men and women aged 45 years and over, and 100 telephone interviews.

The consequences are that older workers are struggling with limited employment, training and promotion opportunities, said study author Justine Irving.

“Older adults in our study described a subtle pressure from their colleagues and management to stop working in order to make room for the younger generation. This was regardless of their experience, enduring capabilities or working preferences,” said Irving.

“Workers also found patronising attitudes, where employers or colleagues assumed they would struggle to pick up new technology or work systems quickly due to their age.”

Irving argued that mature-aged workers bring with them a plethora of positive characteristics such as stability, reliability, loyalty, experience, wisdom and maturity.

One way to tackle work-related ageism is to firstly address negative perceptions regarding the competency of older workers, she said.

Irving added that age-related discrimination was seen to a worrying degree in all areas of the workforce.

“Industries where age discrimination was particularly common included construction, administrative services, education, manufacturing, essential services, information technology and professional service industries,” she said.

Moreover, two-thirds of respondents said they had left the workforce involuntarily, through redundancy and dismissal or feeling they had no choice but to retire.

"Negative experiences at work, with a colleague, management or client, or dissatisfaction with organisational changes were often the trigger events for retirement," Irving said.

Moreover, the findings are backed up by previous research from the Australian Human Rights Commission where 27% of Australians aged 50 years and over had recent experience of age-based discrimination in the workplace.

Despite discrimination being prevalent among older workers, HC recently reported that employees aged 70 and over are three times more likely to be happy at work compared to their younger counterparts, according to a study by Curtin University in WA.

Report author Rebecca Cassells said employees who worked beyond the age of 70 were likely to do so because they love what they do, rather than out of necessity.

Generation X and Generation Y were found to be the least happy, at 28% and 24% respectively, and women are slightly more content than men at work, at 31% compared to 27%.

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  • by Sad for the PS 28/04/2017 1:17:24 PM

    I think calling the pressure subtle is understating the issue when the most obvious leaders in our community, the Premier and Treasurer of the State, make comments like this to the morning newspaper " Mr McGowan also flagged plans to identify and realise $750 million in savings in the public sector as part of a “service priority review”. In the days leading up to the State Election last month, Mr Wyatt would not put a figure on job losses. He noted WA’s public service was older than other public services around the country and there was an opportunity to “recalibrate that age”. (The West Australian 28 April 2017)

    The ability to deliver required services, knowledge and experience or the usual set of reasons that businesses restructure appear not to matter. The pressure for older workers (and Mr Wyatt has not indicated what the magic age may be) to leave their jobs is clear and very heavy handed. Tied with changes to the employment regulations that allow the WA state government to implement forced redundancy I would think that those in the sights of the Treasurer would feel very pressured.

    As HR practitioners we seek to achieve diversity and non discrimination in the workplace, we propose strategies to build engagement and commitment from our people and then we have leaders destroying the trust and core values that have been built up over years of work.

    I accept that an assessment of services and the manner/structures in which they are delivered is necessary. The focus on the age of the public service is not consistent with that strategy and will only cause widespread concern and anger amongst those that have over many years delivered productive service to the community of WA.

  • by 56 and proud of it 28/04/2017 5:07:08 PM

    Age discrimination is definitely alive and kicking. After being made redundant at 52 I struggled to find another role. One recruitment company who specialise in HR recruiting told me on the side that whilst she sympathised with my need to work she recommended I change careers as I was much too old for HR and companies are looking more around the 30 - 35 year age bracket for this type of role. I had 17 years experience that was worth nothing. I was astounded. As an HR specialist I have NEVER discriminated during interviews and I stand by the fact that everyone is entitled to work.

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