Over 45 considered mature age

Mature age workers 45 upward

By Kate Southam

Readers of news.com.au are divided over whether age-based discrimination exists in the Australian workplace.

Almost 100 comments were made after a report about a speech made by Age Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick where she said that over-45s are considered "mature age" workers in Australia and thus likely to be discriminated against.

Many readers who commented were older workers have experienced problem in the Information Technology sector.

One reader, Ben, wrote that "at the ripe old age of 39 I was told that I was now too old to be working in IT by more than one agency.

"That was the motivating factor to start my own business and work for myself. Racism is not the problem in Australia, ageism is."

Another reader, Jerry of Melbourne, noted he experienced "silent rejection of my applications for IT jobs after my retrenchment as soon as I turned 50 in IT."

A third older worker, Neil of Brisbane, wrote: "In the last 6 months I must have applied for about 60 jobs that I could do without any problems both mentally and physically."

"The normal response is that you do not fit the profile – I am 58. I have worked in management in IT and Accounting. (I) feel like an old race horse still fit enough to run but too old to compete."

But other older workers in IT felt all came down to a willingness to keep skills up to date and had little sympathy.

HS of Queensland posted: "Well, I’m female, 47 with three degrees, and doing another, and I’ve never had any problems getting work – I get job offers all the time."

"But I keep up to date with my skills, and have a very wide range of experience…mostly because I get bored easily, and change careers about every two years."

"But I have interviewed older people who have, for example, a late obtained undergrad degree, from a regional university, and no experience, who are convinced, because of their age, they are somehow superior to younger applicants! Sorry, but the younger applicants were way better, and didn’t demand vast salaries either."

While ITman of Sydney wrote: "I started IT at the age of 38 and have been working as network IT support and project engineer roles over the last 12 years."

"While there may be some rejections because of age the depth of experience tends to outweigh age issues and I have never been unemployed more than 3 months."

Over-45s considered ‘mature age’ workers
The discussion was kicked off by Age Discrimination Commissioner, Liz Broderick, who said Elle Macpherson, Madonna, Julia Gillard and Barack Obama all had something in common.

All being over-45s, they would be considered "mature age" workers in Australia and thus likely to be discriminated against solely on the basis of their age, she said.

"Age discrimination in recruitment and employment in Australia today appears to be pervasive, systemic, invisible and accepted, and people need to realise it might affect their employability sooner than they think," Ms Broderick told an Australian Institute of Family Studies seminar in Melbourne today.

She said she was aghast when told in a briefing on age discrimination that 45 was now considered the starting point for "mature age" workers, The Australian reports.

"I was quietly going into shock, thinking to myself, ‘Hang on – this can’t be. That’s me! I’m 47 years old. I’m a mature-age worker’," she said.

"Then I realised – it’s not just me. It’s Elle Macpherson, Madonna, Julia Gillard, Barack Obama and a whole lot of other people you may not think of as ‘older’."

Ms Broderick says by 2020 four in 10 Australian workers will be 45 or older, creating a significant problem for the nation’s future productivity if employers continue to see older workers as washed up.

"Put bluntly, at some stage from around the age of 45 onwards, we all run the risk of encountering age discrimination in relation to employment," she said.

"We’ve all heard of ‘don’t send me CVs of anyone over 40’," she said. Australia has lower workforce participation rates for mature workers than most OECD countries.

Even within a workplace, opportunities for advancement are denied older workers.

"They are seen as less efficient, less trainable and less valuable than people younger than them. Mature-age workers can be denied access to promotion and training because they are seen as offering ‘limited returns’," she said.

"Not only does this represent a potentially serious leakage of skills and talent … but it also strikes at the core of our human right to dignity and respect."

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