Ageism is alive and entrenched in Australian workplaces

The Benevolent Society undertook a survey of 1,005 people aged 50 and over from across Australia to determine their views on ageism, discrimination on the basis of age, in the workplace.


Of the people surveyed, 93 per cent were working, half full time, half part time. 52 per cent they’d like to stay in their current type of work or move to part time work. More than 71 per cent said they wanted to remain in their current job, with 49 per cent looking for more flexible work practices, and 47 per cent suggesting companies be incentivised to hire older workers.


Interestingly, 31 per cent of respondents said they had never experienced ageism, and almost 40 per cent admitted they didn’t know what ageism was. However, it was clear from the experiences many of them shared that ageism is entrenched in the workplace and when looking for work.


Some people related that they experienced ageism by colleagues or managers and that it took many forms. Sometimes it was in jokes or comments made in front of them, sometimes they were treated as though they didn’t fully understand things. 35 per cent of respondents said they were excluded from training, from conversations or from conferences.


More people said they encountered ageism while looking for work than those who were currently employed.


For those who said they experienced ageism on the job, they felt they could not do anything about it. While some took the complaint to their manager (14 per cent) or their union (5 per cent) or left the job (12 per cent), 66 per cent did nothing – they just put up with it.


It was confronting to discover that people were told

  • No one can work here if they’re born before 1960
  • I was told I was too old to be employable
  • I’m not going to be hired because of my age
  • When are you going to retire?
  • Not sure how I’d go working with younger people on the team
  • You’re too old and we don’t hire people with disability.


Marlene Krasovitsky, Director Campaigns – Older Australians, The Benevolent Society said, “Unfortunately, this goes on every day in many workplaces. Even though it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, people are told to their faces: “you’re too old”. It is very distressing that many people feel they can’t fight it.”


Those who admitted to being subjected to ageism said it impacted their confidence (37 per cent) and 12 per cent gave up looking for work.


The Benevolent Society’s older Australians advocacy team received a grant from the Wicking Trust Foundation to fund the EveryAGE Counts campaign. EveryAGE Counts aims to change negative perceptions about getting older and towards older people, and mobilise a holistic political response to the opportunities presented by our ageing population. The campaign is expected to last for several years.


“Changing attitudes and behaviours takes time. Effective advocacy requires money so that people will understand, and get involved with, what we’re trying to accomplish. We are extremely pleased to have been selected by the Wicking Trust for this grant. Working hand in hand, philanthropy and advocacy are powerful forces for change” added Marlene.


1 May 2018.