Tuesday 6 March 2012Age discrimination: A waste of human resources
Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, told a group of top human resource managers today that they hold the key to stopping the waste of human resources that is age discrimination.
Speaking to the Australian Human Resources Institute HR Directors Networking Forum in Sydney, Commissioner Ryan said that the human resources industry was ideally placed to create a productive culture in relation to the millions of Australians who are kept out of work because they are considered “too old”.
“One out of three unemployed people aged between 55 and 64 are long-term unemployed and this long-term rate is more than double the rate for younger age groups,” Commissioner Ryan said. “In September 2009, the average number of weeks a 15-19 year old was unemployed for was 30.5 weeks, compared with 77.5 weeks for someone aged 55 years and over.”
She said there appeared to be a serious disjunction between raising the pension age to 67, the needs of the worker-starved economy and the persistence of age discrimination in employment.
“So many people want to work longer and need to work longer, but age discrimination is stopping them,” Commissioner Ryan said. “People who lose their jobs between the ages of 45 and 65 have huge difficulties finding another one and the stats show that many don’t.”
Ms Ryan said both poverty and homelessness were growing among older Australians.
“Additionally, a structural lag that allows the continued application of age bars in areas that fall outside the protections of the Age Discrimination Act – such as in Workers compensation, Income protection insurance and the Superannuation Guarantee – are acting as a defacto retirement age, forcing people out of work on the basis of their age,” Commissioner Ryan said.
She said complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about age discrimination had recently risen by 44%, enquiries about age discrimination on the basis of being too old were up 78%, while Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed one in five over 55s seeking longer hours and 18% of unemployed over 45s claimed their main difficulty was that employers considered them “too old”.
Though there were several ‘future-focused’ and successful employers that were moving away from the old stereotypes, and the Australian Law Reform Commission was conducting an audit of laws and policies that act as barriers to economic participation of older people, Commissioner Ryan said a general shift in mindset still needed to take place.
“Since 1909 and the introduction of the age pension, we have not really adjusted our concept of old age in relation to work,” Commissioner Ryan said.” With the dramatic demographic changes we have seen, and will see as many children today will live on into their 90s, we can no longer act in our employment practices as if most of us will be dead or useless by 65.”