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Aussie Workplaces Hotbed for Discrimination

9 November 2015 at 10:44 am
Xavier Smerdon
Australian workplaces are worse for discrimination than global averages, according to data covering 34 countries.

Xavier Smerdon | 9 November 2015 at 10:44 am


Aussie Workplaces Hotbed for Discrimination
9 November 2015 at 10:44 am

Australian workplaces are worse for discrimination than global averages, according to data covering 34 countries.

HR and recruitment company, Randstad, released its Randstad Workmonitor report which found that Australians were overly optimistic about the rate of discrimination in workplaces.

More than 13,000 people of working age were surveyed, with the report finding that 79 per cent of Australians believed their business had an open and inclusive culture and 89 per cent saying they valued diversity in the workplace.

But the report found that these perceptions were in contrast to reality, with 25 per cent of Australian workers saying they had been subject to gender discrimination, higher than the global average of 21 per cent and the New Zealand average of 16 per cent.

One in five, 20 per cent, of Australians also said they had faced racial discrimination at work  –  double the rate in New Zealand and higher than the global average of 17 per cent.

Australia was on par with the global average with 16 per cent of workers subject to religious discrimination, which compared to only 9 per cent of New Zealand workers and 19 per cent of Americans.

Employment Market Analyst at Randstad, Steve Shepherd, said although both employers and employees had widely accepted that diversity was good for business, the report’s findings showed there was still some way to go when it came to instilling a true, accepting company culture.

“Part of the reason for increasingly diverse workforces is globalisation. In fact, the proportion of Australians who were born overseas has hit its highest point in 120 years, being 28 per cent of our population,” Shepherd said.

“There is currently an untapped opportunity for Australian employers to embrace the wide range of cultures, experiences and skillsets in our society for the benefit of their workforce. By educating employees to embrace the differences they have with colleagues – be it gender, race, culture or religion – teams will be able to identify each person’s strengths and motivations and utilise them to boost efficiencies.”

As we face the prospect of an aging workforce, with almost one in five Australian workers expecting to retire in their 70’s, the report also found more Aussie workers faced age discrimination than the global average.

One in four Australians said they had been subject to age discrimination at work, compared to 19 per cent in New Zealand.

“Age is but a number, and particularly with the retirement age increasing Australians need to start living by that philosophy,” Shepherd said.

“It’s no secret our talent pool will get smaller when Baby Boomers start to retire, so we will need to find ways to persuade people to remain in the workforce longer. As a starting point, organisations should build a truly multigenerational workforce, and encourage both young and mature workers to learn from each other.”

When investigating sexual discrimination at work, the report found more than two thirds of Australian workers, 69 per cent, believed someone’s sexual orientation was not an issue, compared to a global average of 58 per cent and 54 per cent in the US. Yet 16 per cent said they had been subject to sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, slightly higher than the global average of 15 per cent.

“Ultimately, a company’s most important asset is their staff, and insights provided by the Randstad Workmonitor report show that 84 per cent of Aussies specifically review a company’s reputation when looking for a job,” Shepherd said.

“In Australia’s tight labour market, the ability to attract, inspire and retain a team of talented and skilled individuals will give companies a competitive edge.

“It is our belief that increasingly diverse workplaces are good for business. Many experts have argued that diverse teams lead to better performance and higher employee engagement. I would strongly encourage employers to promote a diverse workforce and a company culture of acceptance for the benefit of all employees and the company.”

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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