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Employment of mature age workers

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Radio transcript from the Commissioner's interview with Annette Marner on 639ABC on 21 May 2013

Annette Marner: … Anne Gale … thanks for coming on … what do you see, do you hear complaints, I’ve certainly heard over the years that people have alleged there is a lot of discrimination towards older workers, what do you hear?

Anne Gale: yes we do receive complaints of age discrimination at the Equal Opportunity Commission, both in enquiries, people ring up and get advice and information … we then can take formal complaints … where people do want to take something further and have a matter resolved … in 2011/12 we had 44 formal complaints around aged discrimination lodged with us

Annette Marner: …about work force?

Anne Gale: in relation to the work force, though there 27 of the 44 with specific to employment … I would like to point out that lodging a complaint and taking it to a formal stage is a last and serious step … there are more issues out there than those statistics demonstrate and our enquiries … our statistics are the tip of the iceberg and other research that has been identified the Productive Ageing Centre in 2012 produced a report, Barriers to Mature Age Employment confirmed that discrimination in employment on the basis of age is a key barrier faced by mature aged Australians in the workforce … as well as those looking for work

Annette Marner: How does it manifest, does it come out in a job interview, where are people experiencing this discrimination?

Anne Gale: it is a very difficult to pinpoint, recruitment procedures are often away where employers may screen out, recruitment agencies may screen out, employers might say we’re looking for a vibrant workforce .. sometimes that translate unconsciously perhaps into a bias towards younger people

Annette Marner: …so you can’t be vibrant and be 50?

Anne Gale: well of course you can … one of the ways we know  about it … in the under employment of people aged 55 and over … when we look at ABS data 46% of unemployed people over the age of 55 have been looking for work for six months or more compared with 32% of those aged less than 55, so once you hit the 55, you’re unemployed longer, it’s much harder and it’s very difficult … to pinpoint exactly … often it’s an unconscious bias … we think older workers aren’t as … might not be as skilled when in actual fact they’re very experienced and they bring knowledge and value to the workplace

Annette Marner: …when you look at some of the powerful people in the world or locally, often they’re well over 50 and 55, I mean the Pope … Julia Gillard, today SA is honouring the Mayor, Joy Baluch of Pt Augusta, 80 years of age and still Mayor

Anne Gale: definitely excellent role models and it’s the proof in the pudding there, those examples demonstrate that people are living longer, they’re working longer, they’re wanting to work longer, people find work is a really important way of getting meaning in their life, no matter what age … you can still contribute in the workforce … unfortunately for some, that’s not showing in our under employment of 55 year olds in the broader community … all of our fantastic role models has to be translated through all aspects of our workforce

Annette Marner: …is there a sense … technology involved, that really is the realm of generation x and y … over 50’s can’t possibly get their head around that …that level of discrimination do you think?

Anne Gale: there may well be assumptions made people’s ability to use technology, it moves so fast … it’s simply a matter of training and education … when you look at seniors and on line you will see actually in SA … high … seniors using online technology so it’s a myth …

Annette Marner: …as an example one of my colleagues taught me how to use Twitter, probably took half an hour … took me five years to learn how to interview properly … technology’s going to change … key skills are pretty standard … often don’t really change that much

Anne Gale: that’s right … with life and experience older people can bring a wealth of skills interpersonal skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills that you get better and better at over time and are really important in our workplaces so valuing those learnt and ingrained skills is really critical, learning the latest application can be much quicker

Annette Marner: What’s your advice … 50, 55 and beyond who want to stay in the workforce or get back in?

Anne Gale: … what we’re trying to do through our regional forum is tackle it from another angle is to encourage our communities, to value the people within their communities and employers to think differently about their workforce and to think about workforce planning and to hear from some of the presenters at this forum in Auburn on Wednesday … broaden your opportunities … at that forum you’ll hear from DOME … Safe
Work SA, Wendy Perry of Workforce Blueprint and Taylor’s Wines all who will be talking about how you can go about doing this … our workforce need to reflect our communities, whether it’s cultural diversity, age diversity or gender or any aspect of diversity … where our population is an older population …

Annette Marner: …how can people register …

Anne Gale: they can register and it’s a free event … with Midge Wallis at Regional Development Australia, Yorke an