Senior workers ‘could add billions to economy’

Australia’s Human Rights Commission will lead an inquiry into age discrimination in the workforce as the Federal Government finds employment rates for older Australians ‘disturbingly low’.

The Australian government has commissioned a national inquiry into workplace age discrimination.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are around 5.5 million Australians aged 55 years and over, making up one quarter of the population. But seniors represent just 13 per cent of the workforce.

The Australian Human Rights Commission will lead the inquiry.

‘Employment rates for older Australians and people with a disability remain at disturbingly low levels and we know that is largely as a result of discrimination,’ Attorney-General George Brandis said as the launch in Sydney.

Age and Disability Commissioner, Susan Ryan, said there are many false perceptions about mature workers that are influencing companies hiring decisions.

‘They won’t adapt to change, they won’t learn new things, they won’t get on with the dynamic younger employees.. now, none of that is supported by evidence, but it is still believed by too many employers’ said Ms Ryan.

The Commissioner said senior workers could add billions to Australia’s economy, if there was a slight increase in the number of aged workers.

‘If we could increase the participation of Australians over 55 in the workforce by just five per cent, we would get a $48 billion a year annual impact.’ Ms Ryan said.

According to the Human Rights Commission, unemployement and under-employment of older Australians costs over $10 billion to the economy each year.

‘The Finishing Touch’, a Melbourne based moving and packing company, prides itself on being an age friendly employer and said it’s a win-win situation for companies.

‘We have over a dozen staff working for us currently who are aged 70 years plus. It’s a win-win situation you end up with a great employee whos able to make a really good contribution.’ said Steve Hitchings, the owner of The Finishing Touch.

The moving and packing company employs more than 250 workers – their average age is 56 years old.

Employee, Jan French is 59 years old and said she enjoys her work.

‘I like to keep busy and with this job there’s a lot of flexibility, clock in and out when we want, go for a holiday we can do other things.’ said Ms French.

The inquiry will consult with businesses and members of the community across Australia and could recommend changes to Commonwealth laws.

The inquiry will report to the Federal Government by July 2016.

Source: SBS News 16 April 2015

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