Over 45s facing ‘systematic’ discrimination

Unlawful age discrimination is affecting the employment opportunities of Australians and urgently needs to be stamped out, the Commissioner for Age Discrimination has said.

In a speech to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Commissioner for Age Discrimination, Elizabeth Broderick, said 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.”

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,” 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.”

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