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Workplace Age and Disability Discrimination Rife

3 May 2016 at 10:29 am
Ellie Cooper
Older people and people with disability are being denied jobs due to discrimination, according to landmark research from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Ellie Cooper | 3 May 2016 at 10:29 am


Workplace Age and Disability Discrimination Rife
3 May 2016 at 10:29 am

Older people and people with disability are being denied jobs due to discrimination, according to landmark research from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

According to the report, Willing To Work, Australia lags behind international comparisons from the OECD in terms of employment of older people and people with disability.

“People who are willing to work but are denied the opportunity are also denied the personal and social benefits of dignity, independence, a sense of purpose and the social connectedness that work brings,” Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said.

“Many highly skilled individuals are being shut out of work because of underlying assumptions, stereotypes or myths associated with their age or their disability.”

The report found that more than one-quarter of Australians aged 50 and over had experienced workplace discrimination in the last two years. A further one-third of those who faced discrimination gave up looking for work.

Ryan said workplace participation declined sharply with age, and people in their 50s who lose their jobs could face decades of unemployment.

Almost 74 per cent of Australians aged 55 to 59 had jobs in 2015, but this dropped to 56.5 per cent of 60 to 64 year olds, and fell to 12.7 per cent of people over 65.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that while people aged 55 years and over make up roughly a quarter of the population, they only make up 16 per cent of the total Australian workforce,” Ryan said.

“This age cohort is the fastest growing in Australia, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”

She said with Australia’s ageing population the number of older people facing discrimination would continue to grow.

“This sharp decline cannot be allowed to continue. The number of over 65s will double by 2055, when life expectancy will be well over 90 for both men and women,” she said.

“Without the changes we recommend, people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another 40 years without paid employment.”

Ryan said people with disability also experienced a significant level of discrimination in employment.

“People with disability are more likely to be unemployed than people without disability and have longer periods of unemployment,” she said.

“The disturbing reality is that labour force participation for people with disability in Australia has changed little over the past twenty years.

“As well as having a negative impact on individuals, such low participation remains a persistent public policy problem.”

The report listed key recommendations, including a national action plan to address employment discrimination, establishing a minister for longevity, and expanding the role of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to become the Workplace Gender Equality and Diversity Agency.

It also said that employers should be targeted, recommending national education campaigns to dispel myths and stereotypes, and developing a suite of strategies for businesses to improve employment of people with disability and older people.

Ryan said the report, which came out of the National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and People with Disability, was an “historic first”.

“We have never had such a clear or detailed national picture of what happens to older workers and those with disability in the labour market,” she said.

“The exclusion of capable and skilled older people and people with disability from the workplace results in a massive waste of human capital and productivity. It drives increases in public expenditure that in the long term are not sustainable.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission called for quick implementation of the recommendations.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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