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AHRI finds ageism is keeping older people out of the workplace


Ageism is blocking older people from the workforce, findings from a survey of  HR professionals about attitudes to older workers show.  

A partnership between the Australian HR Institute and the Australian Human Rights  Commission, the 2023 Employing and Retaining Older Workers Survey found one in six  organisations will not consider hiring people aged 65 and above while only a quarter are open  to hiring those aged 65 and above ‘to a large extent’.  

Just over half (56%) of HR professionals say they are open to recruiting people aged 50-64 to  ‘a large extent’ while 18% say either that they would be open to recruiting from the same age  cohort ‘to a small extent’ or ‘not at all’.  

AHRI CEO Sarah McCann-Bartlett describes these attitudes as disappointing and says organisations are doing themselves a disservice by not considering older workers - particularly  at a time when Australia is experiencing historically high levels of job vacancies. 

“ABS data shows there were 439,000 vacancies in February 2023 which is almost double the  vacancies pre-pandemic, while two-thirds of HR professionals we surveyed say they are  currently experiencing recruitment difficulties.  

“Our results show employment of older workers could help ease these shortages as there are  too many workplaces where older workers are not being utilised to their full potential”. 

The report found that the reluctance by some HR professionals to recruit older workers  contradicted the lived experience of employing them, with many reporting no difference between  older and younger workers in terms of job performance, concentration, ability to adapt to  change, energy levels and creativity.  

Respondents also recognised the advantages of older workers when it came to coping with  stress, attendance, reliability, awareness, commitment and loyalty, while others highlighted  younger workers’ physical capability, ambition and proficiency in using technology as positive  attributes.

Australian Human Rights Commission’s Age Discrimination Commissioner, The Hon Dr Kay  Patterson AO said: "This contradiction leads to lost opportunities all round. It means employers  lose access to a ready-made talent pool, and older people who are willing to work lose the  chance to contribute their talents to the workforce, life satisfaction and financial security.  

“Many older workers can offer the knowledge, skills, and wisdom that businesses are currently  seeking. Employers just need to shift their perspective, trust the data and stop buying into myths  about older workers.” 

Approximately 50% of survey respondents said that their workplace offered flexible work  locations. There was also a welcome rise in employers offering flexible job design policies,  which almost doubled compared to previous years. Concerningly, the survey also showed a  decline in employers offering career planning and advice, training and development  opportunities, and even flexible working hours.  

“This is a worrying development because flexible work hours and access to ongoing training are  key to attracting and retaining workers of all ages and life stages,” Dr Patterson said.  

“Diversity is good for business – and that includes age diversity. This means the smart  employers are providing workplace cultures which are attractive to employees of all ages,  including the rapidly increasing number of workers who are 55+ years of age. 

“Employers who lead by example and embrace age diversity will reap the rewards in terms of  productivity, innovation, problem solving and workforce stability.” 

The report also shows:

The age at which the HR community thinks being an older worker starts, has increased  compared with the 2021 report. Over a third (36%) of HR professionals believe that  employees aged between 61 and 65 constitute the threshold for becoming an older  worker, up from 28% in 2021, meaning the perception of this cohort as older workers is  stabilising. Of interest, is that more HR professionals consider the 66-70 years group as  older workers than previous surveys, up to 23%. 

Consistent with the previous surveys, the four greatest advantages of hiring older  workers are seen to be experience (85%), professional knowledge (71%), age diversity  (41%) and reliability (25%).

The three greatest obstacles HR professionals say they face in recruiting older workers  are a lack of applicants (32%), a perception that older workers lack the necessary tech  skills (22%) and salary expectations that are too high (20%).  

To view the full report visit: https://www/ahri.com.au

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