Attitudes to older workers changing

Attitudes to older workers changing

THE common assumption that employers do not like hiring older people is wrong and many would in fact prefer someone over 55 to a younger worker from overseas, new research shows. A government-funded study of 600 large organisations by Monash University researchers suggests that, after decades of discrimination, attitudes to older workers are changing.

Professor Philip Taylor’s team found that when labor shortages bite 50 per cent of public sector employers put the recruitment of mature workers at the top of their agendas. About 40 per cent of private-sector bosses surveyed said they too would look to the over-55s. In contrast, less than a quarter of the employers surveyed – both public and private sector – said that they would seek to recruit migrant labor.

The research deviates sharply from previous studies which have found that a strong current of institutionalised ageism in Australian workplaces is responsible for the disproportionately high level of mature-age unemployment. ”I’ve been involved in surveying employer attitudes since 1991 and this is the first time I’ve seen such a willingness to employ older workers,” said Professor Taylor, who heads the university’s Research and Graduate Studies department. ”We had expected that, on the back of the economic downturn, employers would be less favorable toward older workers. This is a significant and surprising shift.”

Professor Taylor said that, rather than discrimination, a lack of relevant skills may be keeping mature workers out of a job. The comments drew a strong response from organisations representing older Australians.

Charmaine Crowe of the Australian Pensioners and Superannuates Association said her organisation encountered many mature workers who struggled to find work regardless of their skills. ”I’m hopeful that attitudes are changing but I think we’ve got a long way to go,” she said.

Matt Higgins of older workers said some industries were better than others, but Australia was behind much of the developed world when it came to mature-age people participating in the workforce.

Source: The Age