2021 Ageism Report Finds Changes in Workplace Ageism attitudes

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Older workers in Australia new workplace report
(Image: Peter Van Ejik)

A new survey has found ageism could still be costing older people jobs.

The survey was conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian HR Institute (AHRI).

It surveyed 604 HR leaders, academics and business leaders about their organisation’s approach to older workers.

Some employers “reluctant” to hire past a certain age – is this ageism?

AHRI CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett said while some results were encouraging, “many employers still have got a bias against older workers.”

“About 27% of respondents said that there was an age above which their organisation was definitely or probably reluctant to recruit older workers,” Ms McCann-Bartlett said.

“But the good news is, this was down from 52% in 2014. So it is going down.”

Ageism statistics
From Employing Older Workers Report 2021 (AHRI)

Top reasons for not recruiting older people were a lack of applicants, high salary expectations, and concerns about tech literacy.

Ms McCann-Bartlett said older workers should expect a higher salary where appropriate.

“Older workers actually have more experience, potentially greater skills. And so, as an employer, you pay for those things,” she said.

Around 19 per cent of respondents considered tech skills to be an issue, down from 27 per cent in 2014.

Older workers take key skills with them

While 59.5 per cent of respondents said older worker departures have caused a loss of key skills or knowledge in the workplace, not many organisations were attempting to retain that knowledge, the survey found.

Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, said it was “unfortunate that there has been little or no increase (since 2014) in organisations who capture corporate knowledge as older workers transition out of the workplace”.  

Dr Patterson told 3AW Radio that older people have a lot to offer at work.

“People bring different skills at different ages,” Ms Patterson said.

“Too many businesses are still missing out on the advantages that come from hiring and retaining older workers.”

“Businesses should be looking at how they can capture those skills and that knowledge before (older workers) leave.”

The survey found only 9.7 per cent of participating organisations proactively recruit older workers, while 23 per cent have no recruitment practices for an age-diverse workforce.

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