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Call to tap into older workers rather than migrants to fill skills gaps

Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has called on businesses to consider Australia’s large pool of unemployed older people when looking to combat the country’s skills shortage, rather than merely calling for more skilled migrants.

In the Australian Human Rights Commission’s latest Pod Rights podcast, Commissioner Ryan and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes discussed the employment barriers which older Australians currently face.

Commissioner Ryan referred to a recent research project by national seniors which found that there are currently about 2m Australians over 55 who are willing and able to work, but unable to find work — a problem exacerbated by “a deep seated prejudice about older people, and a deep seated negative stereotype about what older people can do”. She also noted that employment discrimination is the key discrimination area for older people.

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s Grey Areas — Age Barriers to Work inquiry (on which Ryan is a part-time commissioner) is currently looking at all Commonwealth policies and laws that have the effect of creating barriers for older people to continue in paid or productive work, with a view to amending such laws. However, she noted that “a lot of discrimination of course happens out in the corporate sector, and it’s not so easily amended by a regulation or an act of parliament …”.

Besides a change to laws identified as hindering the employment of older people, Commissioner Ryan said she would like to see a breakdown of prejudices against older workers and a mindset that sees 70 years of age, rather than 60, as the norm for retirement.

 Pod Rights transcript: Grey Areas — Age Barriers to Work inquiry



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