Opinion

Over 50 in a 20 zone? Ageism is rife when it comes to hiring

- November 10, 2022 4 MIN READ
Mature-aged businessman talking with younger colleagues in office

Despite their experience, skills and wisdom, mature-aged workers in Australia are being overlooked for jobs at an alarming rate, proving that ageism is rife, writes Guy Rowlison, Business Principal at Plus Communications.

If you believe the positive spin placed on the research showing over-50s are Australia’s fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs (with one-third of new businesses founded by mature-aged Australians) then ‘do not advance token to Mayfair – do not collect $200’.

Anecdotally, what the numbers won’t show are those with life and professional skills in the 50 to 60 demographic believe their efforts are better served by rolling the entrepreneurial dice, rather than re-entering the employment coliseum against a seemingly endless pride of eager young lions.

And so, simply by weight of numbers, the research will naturally show people aged over 50 are more successful entrepreneurs, given that in percentage terms, the math says there are more of us.

In fact, mature-aged ‘entrepreneurs’ launched about 380,000 businesses in Australia in 2021 alone.

If you believe the hyperbole, mature workers have better levels of ‘human and social capital’ and our knowledge, skills and networking capacity are far superior; but once you tick the job application box that shows you’re 50-plus, it counts for little.

Middle aged female virtual assistant at desk

Need evidence that ageism is rife?

How about the hiring credits the Federal Government offered to businesses to subsidise Australians out of work?

Employers taking on younger workers on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance received $200 a week for workers aged 16 to 29 and yet only $100 a week for workers aged 30 to 35.

Yes, 30 to 35 … hardly the orthopaedic sandal brigade.

The case for the scheme was based on payroll data released by the ABS showing workers in their 20s had suffered the biggest share of job losses. Yet, the proportion of jobs lost by mature-age workers 55 and older was even heavier among the ranks of jobless prior to the ‘corona recession’, but scarcely received a look as far as the media or government was concerned.

The fact that seven in ten over-50s agree ageism is a serious ongoing and growing problem in Australia is frankly just scary.

Even the Australian Human Rights Commission managed to divulge some unnerving figures about our attitudes towards so-called ‘older people’ in its report, What’s Age Got to Do With It? It found that 90 per cent of Australians its researchers spoke to believe that ageism exists, 83 per cent say it is a problem, while more than half – 63 per cent – had experienced ageism in the past five years.

mature-aged woman sitting with younger candidates in job interview lineup

The reality of ageism

Initially, job losses during the pandemic were concentrated among younger workers and women, but if you’re to believe the latest payroll data from the ABS, that is changing with older workers – especially men – losing their jobs.

It is with 20/20 hindsight then, I recall a friend in the recruitment sector saying to me years ago that as part of a cost-saving initiative, their business was employing ‘talent acquisitions executives’ in their early 20s – virtually straight out of university.

Not only were the youngsters eager to please and advance their careers, but they came at a bargain basement rate.

The downside was the said 20-somethings saw most 50-somethings as being modern-day velociraptors, and would rarely (if ever) advance the employment applications of the more …. errrr … mature applicants to prospective employers.

The result?

Employers started seeing mainly ‘younger’ applicants gunning for roles traditionally suited to more experienced workers, with most believing these were simply the best applicants received (and duly put forward to them) by the agency.

Yep … every tale has its reality rooted somewhere.

And so it was, I checked out the release this week of the 2022 Financial Review Young Rich List, revealing the diverse ways the next generation of entrepreneurs are building their fortunes.

With a hand on heart, their achievements are impressive but spare a thought for those of us who are no longer the cool kids on the block when it comes to being an ‘entrepreneur’, and simply looking to eke out a living.

The good news is you don’t need to be a young, brilliant visionary to make a fist of going it alone. The bad news is, the decision to start the journey is becoming, more often than not, motivated by a more significant agenda.


This article first appeared on pluscommunications.com.au and is republished with permission. Read the original here.

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