20 Percent of Australians Report Experiencing Age Related Discrimination
Recently published research has shown that the occurrence of older workers in Australia being subjected to age related discrimination in the workplace has almost doubled in the past five years.
According to the Australian Seniors Series: Ageing in the Workforce 2021 report, one in five workers which makes up 20.7 percent aged over 50 report to have encountered age discrimination in the workplace. These figures are twice as many compared to 2016 which was reported at 9.6 percent. Just over 40 percent surveyed admit to feeling patronised in the workplace because of their age.
Regardless of the prevalence of ageism, over three quarters of Australians aged over 50 want to continue working indefinitely and almost 90 percent of retirees plan to re-enter the workforce in the future. When surveyed respondents said that Finance was the number one reason for wanting to re-enter the workforce. This was followed by missing their job, boredom and a lack of social connection.
“Over one in two seniors feel that Covid has made it harder to get work, and close to one in five feel that recent events have impacted their retirement plans, so it's bringing a lot of uncertainty into their working life. In response to this, we actually see that one in four seniors admit to trying to make themselves look younger in the workplace or when they're applying for jobs. That includes things from dying their hair, wearing the latest fashion, getting the latest haircut and makeup styles,” said Tai Mavins, social research expert who spoke at a recent virtual roundtable event which discussed ways to address ageism in the workplace.
Older workers are also becoming increasingly proactive at upskilling to keep up with advancing industry trends, with many branching out into new career paths.
“We found that close to three in five seniors, plan to or already have reskilled or sought further training to improve their prospects since turning 50. What's probably most interesting about that is as many as half of those people who are looking to reskill have done that in new areas, so they're really expanding their horizons and moving beyond past roles,” said Mr. Mavins.
The findings from the research illustrates that the desire to work and to continue learning is there. Similar to many other countries across the world, Australia has an ageing population, and the rising cost of living means people are working till later in life. It is therefore clear that HR leaders must do more to address the causes of age discrimination and generate a truly inclusive workplace.
Organisational psychologist Humphrey Armstrong believes that most of the problem related to ageism is linked to the commonly held misconceptions, such as; older employees costing more, being more difficult to train, or being resistant to change.
“I think one of the fascinating things is that emotional intelligence, or emotional capabilities actually increase with age well into a person’s 70s,” he said. “In terms of resistance to change, I think if older people who know why change is needed and how to change they are prepared to jump on board,” says Humphrey Armstrong.
Humphrey Armstrong said that twice as many start-ups are initiated by over 50s than people in their twenties. Furthermore, there is a massive amount of value in the learned knowledge, intuition and life experience of an older worker. For the workforce to become more inclusive of all ages, ageism needs to be more widely talked about.
“We hear a lot about gender diversity, especially over the last few months, but in fact, age diversity is often ignored. We've got to actually bring that in and really reinforce the issue,” Armstrong said. “Research studies show that diversity is an incredible advantage in organisational life, it increases profitability, creativity, enhances governance, and it also enables better problem solving. Emotional intelligence can increase with age so there’s this huge resource where older people are, in fact, very valuable and very skilled at handling tricky interpersonal problems and generally they are better able to cope with ambiguity.” says Humphrey Armstrong.