Age discrimination impacts.

“What’s the secret of your long life?”

This question is inevitably asked of any person celebrating 100 years of age or more.  Local newspapers feature centenarians in photos flanked by generations of their family. By 2055, there will be more than 40,000 people aged 100 and over in Australia as our life expectancy for men will increase to 95.1 and women to 96.6 years1.

This is because the population of Australians who are aged over 65 years is set to double in the next forty years.  And, as revealed in a recently published Australian study , there could be up to four decades of a person’s life where they are without paid work due to age discrimination.

To investigate barriers to employment, the inaugural national survey into the prevalence, nature and impact of age discrimination in the workplace was undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission (Roy Morgan Research). The results of the National Prevalence Survey were published in April 2015 and announced by The Hon. Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner.

“What doesn’t surprise me is the value this report places on older workers. Their loyalty and low absenteeism is worth around $27 billion to employers…We need to rethink the way we approach older workers and look at value and experience rather than just chronological age.”

– The Hon. Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner.

The survey also reports that 27 per cent of Australians aged 50 years and over had experienced some form of age discrimination in the last two years. Unfortunately, awareness of this type of discrimination is low and a significant number of people were unaware that they had experienced age discrimination – amounting to very little reporting of it.

Of those who experienced age discrimination, 80 per cent reported negative impacts as a result.  Additionally, a third of managers factored age into their decision making. Addressing and highlighting the existence of age discrimination will, therefore, result in economic benefits and improvements in well being for every Australian.

The findings agree with Ellis Jones’ Australia’s Mature Workforce study conducted and published with Adage.

The Australian Human Rights Commission will now undertake a National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination against Older Australians and Australians with Disability, at the request of the Attorney-General. The Inquiry will be conducted by the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon. Susan Ryan AO.

It is inevitable that we will be seeing more stories celebrating centegenarians in our news in the coming decades. Let’s hope that there will be less of the ‘secret to their longevity’ storyline and more about how older people have lived their later years fulfilling their dreams with purpose.

Talk to us about communicating with older audiences.

Image credit: Marcel Sistermanns Creative Commons