Age discrimination commissioner calls out prejudice against older Australians

Two years ago Susan Ryan AO, the age discrimination commissioner in Australia, highlighted workplaces needed an overhaul if age prejudice

Two years ago Susan Ryan AO, the age discrimination commissioner in Australia, highlighted workplaces needed an overhaul if age prejudice was to stop.

Back then her statement was in response to the Federal Government’s plan to raise the pension age to 70 by 2035, and while she agrees it makes sense in the future there must first be a massive overhaul to keep people in the workplace.

Speaking at the National Press Club on July 6, Ryan says the challenge has not been met.

“Perhaps I was not catastrophic enough in my warnings… Not inspirational enough in my ideas… Because that was back in 2014, and now two years later, not enough has happened,” the commissioner says.

“The crisis has not yet been averted, the opportunities of the ageing revolution still elude us.”

Ryan says there are many gains to be had by increasing the participation of older people in the workforce, yet despite the evidence that older Australians are willing and capable of working longer “we proceed too slowly to dismantle the barriers”.

She points to theĀ Intergenerational ReportĀ of 2015 that projected the number of Australians aged 65 and older would more than double by 2055, and there will be more than 40,000 people aged 100 or older.

Men are expected to live, on average, until 95 years of age while women will have an average of 96 years, according to the report.

But this issue is not one isolated to Australia; it is a global issue.

“It’s not surprising that in Australia, as elsewhere, governments are daunted by the prospect of looming fiscal crises, especially with respect to health services.

“It is surprising, and worrying however, that so little has been done to mitigate such crises,” Ryan says.

She highlights a recent Grattan Institute report that estimated an increase in workforce participation of 60- to 70-year-olds by at least 7 per cent would raise the GDP in 2022 by $25 billion.

Additionally, businesses face the negatives of losing knowledge, experience and skills, as well as high costs in recruitments and training and a loss of productivity every time an employee over the age of 50 walks out the door.

“The biggest and best change we could make is to extend the working life of most Australians,” Ryan says.

“Far from planning to retire in their 50s, most Australians now want and need to work up to their 70s and beyond.

“They understand that age rules for the pension and associated concessions are moving up, but where are the jobs and retraining programs to support the longer wait for the pension?”

Ryan questions why age discrimination, where people in their early-50s are being pushed out of paid work and on to benefits, is being allowed to occur when we are facing increased average life expectancy. She argues that employers should reconsider turning away the skilled and experienced in their 50s.

“Employment discrimination against older people is widespread and systemic,” the age discrimination commission says. “Ageism is a barrier at every stage.”

What do you think of these comments? What are your thoughts about remaining in employment after you are 60?

  1. I am 66 and work 60 hours per week, not that I want to, I have to … I have less time off than my younger colleagues, and usually commences before most of them. If I’m lucky have an RDO one per month. My husband was terminated from the big Australian after nearly 25 redundancy, no payout. Never called in sick, did extra when required.. a problem he’s had since he was a baby was suddenly a major issue, and out he went. He competed for Australia in a sport, held Australian records, did triathlons, goes to the gym every day, all with this “problem”….. He’s 60 and un able to get employment..

  2. I am now unable to work due to RA it has becom to debilitating, I can hardly walk and sitting prolongered time makes it harder to get up and I often need assistance, plus problems with hands. I too have worked since the age of 17 yrs even only had time of when having my 3 children, then I worked night shift and husband took over looking after them. Now I cannot work it breaks my heart, I am 64 yrs now. I had super which we had to use due to my husbands accident the he got a post op infection he was off work for 3 yrs it caused so much damaged and nearly had to have arm removed, he has since had a total shoulder reconstruction, more time off. He was back at work for nearly a year on limited income, as he was unable to work full time for a long while, no fault off his own. He now has been battling cancer for 2 years and he tries to keep working, we get 470.00 a FT sickness benefit for us when he is off for prolonged time. I cannot get a pension now or get any other form of income so we struggle. So, if your healthy and can work all well and good but when you cannot you are up the creek, literally wihout a paddle. I also lost a huge pile of money when stock market crashed as I just got my super, hence why we couldn’t get assistance, unfortunately we had cash, we didn’t have enough to buy a second home we should of used it quickly or buy a new car, we should of used the money on other things instead we were caught inbetween money in term deposit, so we had to use funds before we got any assistance. So, now we struggle, my husband is not old enough to retire on new age laws. So, while we may be living longer not all are healthy to keep working. You cannot even claim a none working spouse on tax any more. It is really hard. Sorry for my rant, I just get annoyed at times.Even if you can work you get the young complaining they should retire to give them more opportunities and it is hard to find work for the older generation when they loose work for ill health no one wants you or if you are made recundant no one wants you either. It has become really hard living when your ill.

  3. Steve  

    The Defense Department still has compulsory retirement for defense personnel at the age of 60. It doesn’t matter how fit and healthy you are or how much you want or need to keep working, your 60th birthday is, literally, your last day of full time work.
    The Department has an exemption from the Age Discrimination Act and continues to practice age discrimination in its worst form, despite public opinion and government policy.

  4. Linda Kazlauskas (nee Finch)  

    The Governments idea of women working until 70 is a joke. I was happy to continue working but a new Doctor was appointed by the Radiology Clinic where I worked and he wanted young girls so I was out along with 3 other older women. Management was heard to say in from of staff in the staff room how were they going to get rid of me. Not good to hear after 8 years of work. 3 other older women left and the 4th challenged their attempts on the grounds of bullying. I was contacted to make a statement about the the bullying charges and nothing came of it. I had depression for months but after counselling was able to get on with life. The interesting thing is now I am doing volunteer work I have met so many women who have been bullied out their job.

  5. Cazzie  

    The schools I worked at were vigilant in ‘picking off’ older teachers, as they are far more expensive than graduates. They were given grades loaded with difficult students, or unfamiliar year levels, their confidence was eroded with unfair work loads and lack of support. They were ‘inspected’ by groups of Principals and teachers who marched into their classrooms without warning and when they took leave were ‘encouraged’ to retire. I was disgusted with these antics and then when my daughter suffered an ABI, it was my turn to suffer and they eventually forced me to ‘retire’ also.

  6. Glenn Conroy  

    No ageism here one employer told me “we employed a person as old as 50 last week”!

  7. Char Weeks  

    Recently a recruiter asked me if I had gone to University straight from high school. When I suggested to her that it was a leading question, her response was that she “wanted to get to know (me) better.” I laughed. As someone who has multiple qualifications and has held very senior positions, I really wonder how when I went to high school matters…unless of course, you are trying to establish someone’s age.

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