Corporate Australia begins considering you as old when you hit about age 47. At that time, your skills are seen as outdated and your wages too costly.
Research aimed at revealing gender diversity issues also found that ageism is rife in Australia’s top companies even though it is unlawful.
The Westpac Women of Influence Report found that senior business people believe 47 is when age related discrimination first becomes a problem, as this chart shows:
Baby boomers, now hitting their 60s, consider this to be due to the perception that older workers have outdated skills (84%) and a perceived cost savings in hiring younger people (63%).
However, the perception is wrong, according to Australian experts. Older workers are actually more productive than their younger colleagues.
“Age discrimination in Australia is a huge problem and yet we have found that workers are at their most productive in their 40s and 50s,” says associate professor Angela Knox, a specialist in work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney Business School.
“As a result, discrimination of this kind is bad for individuals, productivity and the economy.”
Mature workers have been found to be a great benefit in mentoring less experienced employees and providing historical knowledge on how to solve business problems.
And ageism only compounds the challenges for women to reach senior management, says Ainslie Van Onselen, Westpac’s director of women’s markets.
“Companies can’t survive in today’s competitive environment with a cookie cutter board and senior management – and business managers know it,” she says.
Increasing the mature age work participation rate by just 7% could improve Australia’s GDP by $25 billion in 2021.
The federal government has a $10,000 subsidy paid to employers to get mature age workers, those aged over 50, back in a job.
“We need to take advantage of the rich and expansive experience our older workers can provide,” says Van Onselen.
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