Crisis continues among older workers

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work consultation has found that discrimination against mature-age workers persists widely amongst job recruiters.


Max Opray reported in The New Daily that the AHRC’s National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination indicated 27 per cent of Australians aged 50-plus had experienced age discrimination in the workplace in the past two years.


He said that the AHRC has already undertaken over 60 meetings across the country as the Willing to Work national inquiry reaches its halfway point, but is only now hitting the national epicentre in mature-age unemployment.


In the Adelaide meeting of the consultation, attendees discussed a perceived lack of government support, competition from migrant workers, and young recruiters failing to take mature-age applicants seriously.


One vocal critic of the federal government was 59-year-old Helen Chadwick, who worked for Centrelink for 30 years before leaving three years ago.


Drawing on her experience at Centrelink, she said the only way she saw mature-age workers gain employment was via people they knew or by starting their own small business.


She said the Federal Government needed to stop stigmatising the unemployed, and instead raise awareness about the value of experienced workers and introduce mature-age hiring quotas in the public sector.


Chairing the consultation was Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan, who said the government was indeed taking action on mature-age unemployment, via the Restart scheme which underwent a relaunch on Sunday.


Restart was first introduced in the 2014/15 budget, aiming to secure employment for 32,000 mature-age jobseekers every year via a $10,000 wage subsidy over two years, with the changes now allowing employers to access the full subsidy within 12 months.


As revealed by The New Daily last week, the Restart scheme fell dramatically short of the original target – 15 months into the program, it had found jobs for just 2318 people.


Ms Ryan hoped the results of the Willing to Work inquiry would inform further alterations to Restart beyond the changes introduced last Sunday.


“There’s money, the idea is good, but there’s no communication surrounding it, and it is probably a bit narrow in the way it works – you have to be on unemployment benefits for six months before you get it,” she said.


Although the Willing to Work inquiry is not due to report in until July 2016, Ms Ryan already knew one recommendation she would make to the Federal Government would be that the subsidy should apply to mature-aged recruits no matter how short a period it took for them to find a job.


Read Max Opray's full story, The real-life tale of our crisis among older workers in The New Daily.


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2 November 2015.