Job seekers over the age of 50 on average, spend twice as long looking for work
Systematic age discrimination is continuing to prevent many older Victorians from obtaining and retaining meaningful employment despite the working age population of Australia being forecast to fall below 50% in 2021. This will make the continued employment of older workers an increasing necessity for a strong economy as the pool of younger workers shrinks.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria CEO, Tina Hogarth-Clarke said significant barriers to older Victorians staying in or re-entering the workforce included negative attitudes towards older workers, lack of access to appropriate training and professional development and the undervaluing of the skills, experience and wisdom of older workers.
“In one employment survey two thirds of employers say they are reluctant to hire workers who are over the age of 50 (2) with job seekers over the age of 50 on average, spending twice as long looking for work.” (3)
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said some Australian companies, such as Westpac, have led the way with the well documented and successful policy of employing older staff showcasing the success of such employment policies and clearly demonstrating that reaching the age of 50 should not be considered the use-by-date for any employee.
More than 20% of Westpac’s employees are aged 50+. Westpac believes that by offering programs and support targeted at mature age workers, they can continue to retain and attract the best talent in the market.
“The involvement of corporate Australia to actively support Government initiatives will be critical in addressing the under-employment of older Victorians, which is a having a major impact on the health and welfare of many older workers and their families.
“In many family and smaller businesses older employees are valued for their experience and often become mentors for younger new employees.”
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said through our work at COTA Victoria, we frequently hear about the distress, poor health and poverty experienced by people who are unfairly excluded from paid employment which can significantly add to the personal and economic stress of older Victorians and their families.
The over 65 in Victoria is projected to increase to 1.1 million by 2021, growing at more than twice the rate of the general population, (8) resulting in the pool of younger workers gradually decreasing over time, increasing the need for older people to remain in the workforce for as long as possible.
Facts on Older Australians
• 1 in 3 Australian pensioners currently live in poverty. (3)
• One in seven people experiencing homelessness are over the age of 55.(5)
• Older women struggling in the rental market are the fastest growing group of people to experience homelessness in Australia.(6i)
• Retirement can increase the likelihood of an individual experiencing clinical depression by about 40%, and their likelihood of having at least one diagnosed physical health condition by about 60%.
The risk of ill-health increases with the number of years spent in retirement. (7)
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said taking steps to increase the workforce participation of older Victorians will undoubtedly lead to cost benefits for health, social services and a more sustainable economy.
Ron Smith, COTA Victoria – Mobile: 0417 329 201
1 Council on the Ageing Australia (2019) ‘Ageism and Discrimination’, accessed 29 July 2019
2 Australian Human Rights Commission (2018) ‘Employing Older Workers’, accessed 29 July 2019
3 Williamson, B. on behalf of ABC Radio Adelaide (2017) ‘Age discrimination: Over 50s search twice as long for work ‘,
accessed 29 July 2019
4 Australian Council of Social Services (2018) ‘Poverty in Australia’, accessed 28 July 2019
5₅ Housing for the Aged Action Group (2013) ‘Older Persons Housing Fact Sheet’, accessed 27 June 2019
6 McDonald, P. (2017) ‘Homelessness: Older women couch surfing, sleeping in cars due to unaffordable housing’,
accessed 27 June 2019
7 Institute of Economic Affairs in association with the Age Endeavour Fellowship (2013) ‘Work Longer, Live Healthier:
The relationship between economic activity, health and government policy’ (Discussion Paper No. 46) accessed 29 July
8₈ Victorian Department of Health & Human Services (2015) ‘Mental health and wellbeing of older people’, 10-year
mental health plan technical paper