Thursday, 6 August 2009

If you are 45, get ready for age discrimination to affect your employability

In a speech to the Australian Institute of Family Studies today, Commissioner for Age Discrimination, Elizabeth Broderick, emphasised the fact that age discrimination is likely to touch the lives of most people earlier than they think, because the official age at which a person is considered to be a mature age worker is 45.

“Our consultations, and other research, indicate that age discrimination is one of the most unaddressed barriers to workforce participation that people aged 45 and over will face,” said Commissioner Broderick .

Commissioner Broderick said that age discrimination in recruitment and employment in Australia today appears to be pervasive, systemic, invisible and accepted, and people needed to realise that it might affect their employability sooner than they think – that is, when they are in their forties.

“Given that by 2020, it is expected that 4 out of 10 people in our labour force will be 45 and over, and the increase in the age pension age to 67 signals an expectation for us to work longer, unaddressed unlawful age discrimination emerges as a vey clear problem in relation to employment in our community,” said Commission Broderick. “It is not someone else’s issue – it can happen to all of us.”

Ms Broderick said that age discrimination knew no demographic boundaries – it crosses cultural background, class, faith, gender, sexuality and disability.

“Prior to the increase in the Age Pension payment, Australia had the fourth highest poverty rate among OECD countries for mature age workers and continues to have a lower workplace participation rate for mature age workers than most OECD countries,” Ms Broderick said.

“We should not be made to feel we have reached the scrap heap of working life when we turn 45, particularly when most of us would consider we have at least 10 to 25 working years left in us.”

In her role, Ms Broderick said she constantly heard that from 45 onwards, people face being discriminated out of the recruitment process, out of employment, out of training opportunities and into forced early retirement.

“We live in a world where generalised stereotyping of age groups, such as the use of generational labels like Gen Y and Baby Boomers, can make age discrimination acceptable and entrenched,” the Commissioner said. “For example, it is an accepted and incorrect stereotype that older people are slower to learn and harder to train.”

Commissioner Broderick said one of the biggest problems with age discrimination was its entrenched and implied social acceptance, and thus, invisibility.

“We need to make this invisible problem visible,” Commissioner Broderick said. “We need to invest in research into this problem, we need to commit to communicating the existence and extent of this problem to the wider community and we need to look at legislative and policy reforms to address it.”

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529