Age discrimination in Australia is an increasingly obvious trend as the ‘baby boomer’ population ages and reaches traditional retirement age. This essay will focus on the discrimination the older generation (aged 55 years and over) encounters in the workplace. It seeks to educate the reader in Australian legislation as well as making clear the differences between indirect and direct discrimination.
In this essay, I will also discuss examples of age discrimination in the workforce, leading into potential solutions for both employer and employee. Finally, his paper will summaries all points examined and why initiatives for an ageing workforce are not being met. Age discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably, either directly or indirectly, than a person of a different age in the same or similar circumstances (ACH Australia, 2011).
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Age discrimination usually occurs because negative assumptions are made about the person’s age and/or age group (Patricians & Raining, 2004). Age discrimination is not limited to persons who fall into the older generation category. Age discrimination can also be targeted to the younger generation (under 30 years) UT for different reasons. The Anti-Discrimination Act generally prohibits age discrimination in the fields of work, education, the provision of goods and services, accommodation and registered clubs (Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, sect. CUBBY-ZIP). ‘However, some exceptions apply in relation to: situations where age is a genuine occupational qualification; voluntary retirement; the legal capacity and welfare of children; special needs programs and activities; superannuation, insurance and credit applications where the terms are based on reasonable actuarial or statistical data; safety reoccurred such as the provision of driver’s licenses; and sport’ (Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, sect. JAZZY-JAZZY).
Similarly, compulsory retirement based on age is unlawful in the states of SLD, NEWS and Victoria (Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (SLD) s 1 5(1) and 15(2); Anti-Disconsolation Act 1977 (NEWS) Apt E; Equal opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) s 14 and 15). Other states of Australia have their own laws, which I will not discuss in this essay. However, federal legislation does not forbid compulsory retirement (Engel, 1999). Older workers are sometimes viewed as possessing poor information technology kills, resistant to change, less mobile and more susceptible to illness and more likely to acquiesce to authority (Hutching, 2006).
As an example, in the sass a substantial number of older male workers left the Australian workforce due to high unemployment rates. During this time employers viewed older workers negatively, seeing them as too old to train in new skills and with lower level of adjustment capability (COED, 1998). Despite, these negative stereotypes associated with older workers, there are certain benefits to employing, or retaining, older workers. These include older workers being armed with years of experience and knowledge, a mentoring capacity, commitment, and strong work ethic (Drew & Drew, 2005).
Conversely, younger workers are viewed as not having enough experience, challenging authority, having a sense of entitlement and not fitting into teams (Astrakhan et al, 2010). Global workforce trends suggest that employees are ageing due to improved mortality rates, declining fertility rates, the impact of migration levels and an increase 2 in the younger generation’s growing length of education (Astrakhan et al, 2010; Drabs, 2004). In Australia, the current population aged over 65 years sits at 12 percent. This is expected to more than double by 2051 (Andrews, 2001).
At the same time, the proportion of the Australian population that is aged over 50 years of age will equal that aged under 50 (Drabs, 2004). ‘Australia’s population is ageing both numerically and proportionately. The number of older Australians is increasing, as is the proportion of the population that is over 65 years’ (Drabs, 2004). Australian society has been slow to understand that the workforce is ageing and that the economy and individuals are suffering because of our ignorance. Most of the older generation want to work past their ass to meet both financial and personal goals (Ryan, 2012).
As Astrakhan et al (2010) point out, an ageing population meaner that more people rely on income transfers (like the aged pension) and therefore there is a greater pressure put on health and social security systems. However, they need to know they can do this in safe and secure environments. Direct age discrimination ‘occurs when a person treats, or proposes to treat, another person less favorably because of that person’s age or a characteristic or attribute which generally appertains to persons of that age’ (ACH Australia, 2011).
An example of this would be when an older person is not employed in an office because the employer assumes that this person, because of his age, would not be able to learn computer and other technological skills. Indirect age discrimination is when ‘an employer puts in place a requirement that has, or likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging persons of a particular age group’ (ACH Australia, 2011). An example of this would be when an employer asks an older person to perform a fitness test when it is not essential for the Job for which they are applying.
Projects such as ‘Age Positive’, ‘Respect and choice: A human rights approach for ageing and health’ and, Working Past Our ass’ have all been implemented by the Australian Human Rights Commission to ward off, or at least attempt to limit, age discrimination not only in the workforce but also the health care system and other fields (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013; Productivity Commission, 2005).
Similarly, the Australian Government has initiated two different tax benefits aimed at the ageing population. These include the Mature Age Worker Tax Offset that reduces the amount of payable tax for Australians who are 55 years and older’ as well as the Senior Australians’ Tax Offset which ‘increases the amount of money that workers can earn before tax is payable once they have reached pension age’ (Australian Tax Office, 2013).
The COED also recommended policies including ‘extending retirement ages (working longer), raising the labor force participation rates of women, removing incentives for early retirement, reforming pension systems so that retirement incomes reflect employment continuity, and enhancing part-time work (Cons, 2003), which I will iscuss in more depth now. The first recommendation – extending retirement ages – is an admirable aspiration.
However, from the employer’s point of view, maintaining an older workforce could be perceived as slowing down production rate as, in less skilled areas, a younger person is likely to be faster or more adept at the technology. Still, the employer may wish to retain one or two older employees with experience and greater depth of knowledge in a specific skill which a younger person is unable to match.
Challenging this stereotype, a study by Drew and Drew (2005) found that employers and employees (the self-perception of older workers) agreed that lower absenteeism and special task knowledge were the positive outcomes of having an ageing workforce. Consider the next point of raising the labor force participation rates of women, and add some of the proposed initiatives to provide generous paid maternity leave. These programs will provide more available younger people in the workforce, which will then indirectly discriminate against the older generation.
Currently, older women face the biggest challenge in securing employment. Because of career breaks for eternity and family responsibilities, their employment prospects may be limited due to inconsistent work experience and a consequential lack of confidence in their abilities and knowledge of new technologies. As a result of fewer older women being in full time employment, their incomes and superannuation are lower than males of similar ages (ACH Australia, 2011). The third point, removing incentives for early retirement, is a complex proposition with a number of social and consequences.
Removing financial incentives may However it will also force older reduce government expenditure (Brown, 2010). Observers to remain in a market where their skills are undervalued or ignored. Conversely, retaining incentives for early retirement may encourage the older employee to opt out of paid employment and leave more positions available for younger and more technologically adept Jobsharers. In a time of higher unemployment, this may be the preferred option, with the added bonus of reducing government expenditure on the social services required to support the Jobless (Astrakhan et al. 2010). Reforming pension systems so that an older person can work, suspend their pension while they are employed and pick up on a bigger pension eater, is very attractive. But if you force this system on to people who are 5 then unable to find work, you run the risk of creating an ageing underclass – and this is what we need to be wary of. Over the last decade, social commentators have referred to the ageing working population in increasingly alarmist terms. Currently the percentage of the population over 65 years is only 12%, expected to double by 2051 (Andrews, 2001).
Australian society are being persuaded that our population is growing older faster than it is when in fact we have 20-30 years before the statistics reach a critical point. So we eve an older band of employees who are already thinking ‘Oh, they need me now, and that’s not true… Yet. This concept is more likely to apply to Generation X rather than baby boomers. – By the time Gene X are in their ass’s they will be needed, but at the moment there are still enough Generation Y population to fill any current roles.
So we have the older section of the workforce expecting to be needed and effectively being ignored because there are sufficient younger workers for employers to choose from. We also have higher unemployment at present, which tends to mitigate in favor of the younger worker who may have a family to support. If employers are offered the choice between a younger and an older worker they are more likely to take the younger candidate, believing that they will stay longer, be more productive and grow with the company. ‘l will hire this person and train them and they will be here for 10-15 years’.
The employer appears to be ignoring that the younger generation will change Jobs a number of times of the course of their career, certainly more often than older people (Parry & Irwin, 2010). Gone are the days of the 40 year job and gold watch. Ambitious younger workers are encouraged to change impasses every 3-5 years to build skills and experience, making them more 6 attractive in a highly mobile and swiftly changing Job market. The Job that a 25 year old may be performing at 40 years of age, may not exist yet.
It has also be recognized that mature aged persons who lose or leave their Job tend to experience difficulty in getting another Job because: their skills and the needs of the labor market do not always match; they are less willing to change industry or geographical locations; and they experience discrimination because of their age’ (HEROIC, 2000, p. 20). So are hiring managers wrong in their approach? No, but they may not be taking a holistic view where the right mix of younger and older employees can bring differing benefits to their businesses.
Part of the problem is the fast moving Job market itself. With younger employees moving between companies more frequently, HER departments are busier and may not have the time to think strategically about their hiring policies (Anderson, 2009). And the other influence is cultural – new is better. Built in obsolescence in products now persuades us to buy new, buy the bigger, brighter model and not mend or persevere with the older model, however reliable ND solid it may be.
If an HER manager has the choice between someone who is 35 years old and has good skills or someone who is 60 years old, with sensational skills, they are still likely to choose the 35 year old believing that they will have the longer tenure. However the consideration should be that the 35 year old is likely to move on in five years (Anderson, 2009), leaving yet another position to fill, where the 60 year old will stay for five years (and more), and is likely to be open to knowledge transfer or mentoring their successor.
Perhaps when hiring an older worker, the contract should mandate a succession plan to ensure that years knowledge and experience is retained beyond the employee’s tenure. Appealing and flattering. And the older worker is likely to find this concept very Commentators agree that enhancing part-time work is a noble idea because firstly, a lot of the ageing population want and seek it (Abernathy et al, 2008) and, secondly it is enough to bolster income without affecting their pension and it gives them motivation to get up in the morning, social interaction, still time for family commitments etc.
Abernathy et al (2008) also found that over 17 per cent of the irking population over 55 years were in part-time employment (nearly 36 per cent of the workforce in 2006) and that older workers typically preferred to work part time, reflecting in part changing attitudes within the workforce to combining work with nonworking activities’. Similarly, employers offer these part time roles mainly because of the flexibility in working agreements, ANZA and IBM being among the organizations offering such flexible working hours ([email protected], 2013).
Workforce ageing suggests that organizations will have to tackle issues such as retaining staff, maintaining and educating the skills base of the organization and Rockford, recruitment (if the skilled labor pool is to cease growing), workforce succession planning and, older staff who have considerably different lifestyles to that of younger generations (Astrakhan et al, 2010). So, what can be done to minimize age discrimination? Training all employees in a workforce is vital for ongoing current and future organizational success (Hutching, 2006; Coho, 1999).
Organizations that foster continuous education and training build a positive working culture and, particularly older workers, acknowledge the need to 8 update their skills to maintain a reciprocal need from their employer (Astrakhan et al. 2010). Such organizations that have been recognized for supporting above mentioned initiatives include Beneath which offers traineeships programs for older workers (ACH Australia, 2011). In turn, employers need to recognize the importance and contribution made by mature aged workers to their economic growth Monsoons, 1999).