The share of the workforce aged 55 or over may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean older Australians are not facing significant barriers and discrimination.
A new national survey has revealed that ageism is on the rise in Australia, with 37 per cent of over-50s now reporting having experienced ageism, which was up from 33 per cent in 2018.
The Council on the Ageing’s (COTA) State of the Older Nation report also revealed 26 per cent of respondents had experienced employment-related discrimination since turning 50 – up from 22 per cent in 2018 when the last survey was conducted.
Last week, YourLifeChoices reported that the share of the workforce aged 55 plus has more than doubled from 9 per cent in 1991 to 19 per cent in 2021 and is projected to reach 40 per cent by 2050.
EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said these worrying trends show that ageism is no longer an issue that can be ignored.
“Too many are accustomed to laughing off incidents of ageism as relatively trivial, but we know it’s doing real damage to millions of Australian lives,” Ms Krasovitsky said.
“The fact that 37 per cent of Australians over 50 have been discriminated against should be considered a national crisis. And to see ageism on the rise since 2018 is particularly alarming.
“Most Australians are living longer, healthier lives. Yet ageist attitudes and practices continue to exclude, diminish and marginalise older people. Workforce discrimination, for example, hurts not just older Australians, but the entire community and our economy.”
Ms Krasovitsky said until people started recognising the problem, ageism would continue to rise and that could have a serious impact on people’s health.
“Changing social norms is never easy, but it starts with acknowledging the problem as serious,” Ms Krasovitsky said. “We need to stop shrugging off incidents of ageism and start calling them out.
“The World Health Organization recently found older people who hold negative views about their own ageing will live 7.5 years less, on average, than those with positive attitudes.
“How can you not develop negative attitudes when over a third of Australians over 50 are being discriminated against, and the rest of us are forced to see and hear ageist views on a daily basis?”
While the State of the Older Nation report had some alarming figures on age-based discrimination, it also showed that only 49 per cent of those aged 65 had retired, which was down significantly from 2018 when 60 per cent had retired.
Also, the proportion of people aged 65 to 69 who said they wanted more paid work has doubled from 2018 (15 per cent to 31 per cent)
Those figures may reflect that the Age Pension eligibility age has also changed in that time, but does also demonstrate that older Australians are staying in the workforce longer, but are not getting as much work as they want or need.
According to the survey, 25 per cent of those who are still working do not think that they will ever retire, which was up slightly from 24 per cent in 2018.