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Thursday, October 28, 2021

A smaller, older Australia need not be feared if we can properly tackle ageism: campaign

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The new Intergenerational Report (IGR) has projected COVID-19 will make Australia’s population smaller and older than earlier predicted, but that need not be a problem if we can take real steps to end the blight of ageism, according to the EveryAGE Counts campaign.

In launching the IGR, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government remains committed to funding essential services while maintaining a sustainable tax burden.

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said the key to achieving these goals is making a concerted effort to fight ageism.

“Ageism is now a huge drag on our economic growth,” Krasovitsky said.

“Our assumption that everyone over 65 is rushing to retirement does not stand to scrutiny.

“The latest data from the COTA Federation last week showed only 49 per cent of those over 65 had retired, down significantly from 2018 when 60 per cent were retired.”

Krasovitsky said the reality is most older Australians are living longer, healthier lives and they want, or need, to work longer. So what’s holding them back? Ageism.

“The IGR notes that the increased participation rate amongst older workers in recent years has been supported by greater life expectancy and better health, as well as greater work flexibility,” she explained.

“But further gains are missed because of ageist recruitment processes and workplaces.

“Too many older workers want to work, but miss out because of negative assumptions based only on their age.

Thirty-seven per cent of Australians have experienced discrimination since turning 50, and that’s up from 23 per cent in 2018.

Twenty-six per cent have experienced employment related discrimination.

“If we want to maintain funding for essential services and infrastructure we need to lift the labour force participation rates of older people who want or need to work, Krasovitsky continued.

“That means we have to address ageism at its root – the stereotypes, assumptions, and discrimination that currently lock older people out of work.”

Australia’s population is expected to grow to 38.8 million by 2060/61, at which time, for each person aged over 65, there will be only 2.7 people working, compared with four people now and 6.6 people in 1981/82.

The IGR has found almost all participation increases over the next 40 years will come from people above the age of 40.

“Those projections will be hampered if we do nothing about the ageism that keeps keen older workers jobless.

“We simply can’t afford to continue carrying around ageist notions about older Australians. These mindsets are holding us back.”

Krasovitsky said the 2021 Intergenerational Report should prompt the Federal Government to invest in a program to start lowering the rates of ageism and age-based discrimination in Australia.

“We need a sustained public and workplace education campaign to challenge the myths and negative attitudes about older people in the workforce,” she said.

“… we should encourage organisations to develop and implement age inclusive approaches.

“We also know that multigenerational workforces are good for business and raise productivity.

“There’s no silver bullet for ending ageism, but we need to start tackling this problem systemically now.

“It’s a vital means of boosting economic growth in the years ahead, given the IGR’s projections.”

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