One in 10 Australian businesses will not recruit staff aged 50 years or over.
This is one of the startling findings of research commissioned by the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan AO, that provides evidence of negative stereotypes about older people that are held by so many people.
“This research quantifies some of the stereotypical beliefs people hold about older people that lead to discriminatory attitudes and behaviours,” Ms Ryan said.
“These attitudes and behaviours act as barriers that prevent many older people from reaching their full potential in workplaces and in the community.”
Ms Ryan said that 71% of people feel that age discrimination is common in Australia.
The research findings show that ‘ageing’ is a loaded term that holds predominantly negative connotations, particularly among younger people.
“With the expected radical change in the age profile of our population over the next 50 years, resulting in over 25% of people being aged 65 and over, shifting these attitudes and behaviours is imperative,” Ms Ryan said.
Businesses that do not alter their policy on age profile will find themselves without sufficiently skilled staff.
“One of the conclusions of the report is that our media influences negative perceptions of older Australians,” Ms Ryan said. “It highlights the prevalence of negative stereotypes in portrayals of older people in media and advertising in Australia, as well as the under-representation of older people in the media.”
“Crucially, it also reveals that these sorts of stereotypes and invisibility have influenced perceptions in the younger generations, created negative employer attitudes and impacted negatively on the way older people view themselves,” she said
Ms Ryan said that she would like to see “constructive collaboration” with media, advertising agencies and corporate Australia so that older Australians are presented in a more accurate, balanced and diverse manner that reflects their value, capability and experience.
“It is vital we recognise that the growth in the number of older Australians provides significant and very real economic and social benefits and opportunities,” said Ms Ryan.
Research Manager with an executive recruiting firm, Maria Forrest, says that the attitude regarding age is even prevalent in some executive recruitment.
"You would think that there may be an appreciation that older people are going to have the better experience for many executive positions, but not all employers think that way. Many want a workplace with a youthful profile, and even a certain 'look'," she says.
"We will do what we can to dissuade our clients of this but, unless they're a public sector type employer, it is their decision because it's their business.
"I see many good candidates who are ignored simply because their CV indicates they finished school before 1980 or graduated before 1985, even though they've got the skills, the personal qualities, the expeirence and kept up with technology. To be frank, it makes my blood boil."
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The report is available here.