A recent report by the Human Rights Commission and another by Australian Seniors has told us something we already knew informally, that ageism is rampant in Australian workplaces, with an alarming number experiencing it first hand. And finally, after many people have called it out, the data is here to prove it.
The Ageing in the Workplace 2021 report surveyed 5000 Australians over 50 in order to explore the experience of seniors in the workplace, impacts of Covid-19, and how they feel about retirement.
Alarmingly, 9 out of 10 respondents surveyed believe ageism is prevalent in the workplace. While 1 in 5 experienced age discrimination while at work.
Belinda Wood, People and Culture Director for Ai Group, wrote a blog about the subtle ways age discrimination can occur.
“It will come through in offhand remarks such as ‘they don’t really need to know about that’ or ‘we’ll get the younger people to do our social media because they know it better’,” she said.
Despite the barrier of age discrimination in the workplace, seniors are still wanting to work as 88.9 per cent of semi-retirees and fully retired seniors are now considering re-entering the workforce.
The desire to re-enter the workforce is partly spurred on by the recent pandemic as 1 in 5 of those surveyed felt the events of 2020 and Covid-19 have impacted their retirement plans.
Financial factors, missing their work, boredom, and seeking social connection were also motivations for seniors wanting to return to the workforce.
Lifelong Learning Systems Organisational Psychologist Humphrey Armstrong highlights the advantages available to companies who hire over 50s.
“Interestingly, with skilled migration being pretty much shut down over the last 18 months, many organisations are now reporting difficulties in recruiting loyal, reliable staff,” he said.
“The increasing need to find talented, experienced staff presents a great opportunity to consider retaining and hiring older people.
“The shift to flexible and remote working arrangements, which are especially attractive for many older women who are keen to secure flexible part-time jobs, means new employment opportunities are now emerging, due in part to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”
Founder and Director of Seeking Seniors, a recruitment agency for over 45s, Amanda Mackean also recognises the value older Australians bring to the workforce.
“Our economy is not going to get out of this ravaged state unless we alter our standards and employ Australia’s over 50s,” she said.
“Having come up against age discrimination first-hand during my career, I’m hopeful that a wider understanding of the positive contributions over 50s bring to the workforce, will help thousands of seniors facing ageism.”
Despite the challenges of age discrimination seniors refuse to let ageism stand in their way as 3 in 4 are currently taking action to have more control over their career including re-skilling, training, and embracing new technology.