Campaign Promotes the Power of ‘Oldness’
Tuesday, 2nd September 2014 at 9:49 am
A five per cent increase in the employment of Australians over the age of 55 would add $48 billion to the national economy, the people behind a new human rights campaign have claimed.
The Australian Human Rights Commission recently launched an online campaign aimed at targeting young people’s perceptions of their older colleagues.
The Power of Oldness claims that people over the age of 55 are 47 per cent more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to suffer from mental health issues and are more likely to be lonely.
Australian Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said that negative views of older people in workplaces was a major factor leading to them being laid off.
“Older people have a great deal to contribute and they should not be banned from the workforce simply because of their age,” Ryan said.
“Through our own research we have measured peoples perceptions of older workers and alarmingly the most negative response came from people under the age of 35.
“This issue goes to the basic cultural prejudices the community has towards older people, and that is a big problem to tackle.”
The campaign features a video that spruiks many of the good things about hiring older people while also showing the challenges they face in gaining employment.
Susan Ryan said that while it would also feature a radio component, online had been chosen as the main medium because it was hoped that the campaign would target a younger audience.
“There is a general inactuation with youth in our society and young people tend to be the beneficiaries of that,” she said.
“You can’t shortcut experience. What we want to tell employers is that there are benefits to hiring older people.
“While younger workers are often very mobile… if you hire someone in their 50s they are more likely to stay in the job.
“We are very concerned about youth unemployment, that is a very important issue, but in that case it isn’t age their age that is holding young people back, it’s a lack of experience.
“A lot of older unemployment however is hidden because a lot of people over 55 just stop looking when they lose their job.
“When you read of the closures of big companies though, what we know is that a lot of older people are being laid off.”
Chief Executive Officer of beyondblue Georgie Harman told Pro Bono Australia News that facing unemployment could negatively affect older people’s mental health.
“The bottom line is that good work is good for mental health and wellbeing,” Harman said.
“Having something meaningful to do can give older people a sense of belonging and contributing.
“Someone older being discriminated against in the workplace can really have a compounding effect especially when it comes to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.”
Harman said that she supported the Power of Oldness campaign as it would hopefully shed light on the mental health of older people and help lower the level of age discrimination.
Minister for Employment Senator Eric Abetz said that mature-aged workers could make a significant contribution to businesses of all sizes and welcomed the Power of Oldness campaign.
“Older Australians make a strong contribution to their communities, their families and can make a great contribution to businesses. That’s why the Government has launched the Restart program to encourage employers to take on older Australians,” Abetz said.
The Restart program encourages employers to hire mature-age job seekers, providing an incentive of up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) to employers that take on and retain people who are aged 50 or over.
Susan Ryan said the campaign would run for as long as it was still gathering interest.