Standing up for Canberra

The Chronicle: Age Discrimination in Australia

Imagine you’re the Prime Minister. On your desk are two challenges.

One is an ageing workforce, operating in a labour market lacking in decent job opportunities for older workers.

The second is the need to boost national prosperity by creating more jobs for more workers at every stage of their career.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Employers look at two things when hiring new staff: their past experience and their future potential.

Different jobs require a different balance. When things are working, there’s enough jobs requiring a lot of experience to balance out the number of jobs that require a greater investment in future potential.

But things aren’t working.

The labour market is increasingly off-kilter. Past experience has less value and future potential is invaluable.

That’s a problem for individuals as well as for the economy.

According to a new report by accounting and consulting firm PwC, underemployment from people aged 55 or above is costing the Australian economy up to $78 billion.

If we improved employment of those 55 or above to the same level as that as in Sweden, GDP would be nearly 5 per cent higher.

We cannot afford to fail to harness the full potential of older workers. Age discrimination is costing workers, companies, and the Australian economy.

Some solutions are already being implemented. Bunnings deliberately seeks out older workers, with fantastic results. Others use schemes such as phased retirement and mature age apprenticeships to retain older workers with key skills and experience.

We undermine our capacity as a country by not fully embracing the potential of older workers. It’s up to all of us to change the way we work.