New data published by the Councils on the Ageing (COTA) federation has revealed that only 49% of Australians aged 65 and older are retired — a marked decrease from 2018 figures where 60% of people in the age group reported they entered retirement.
According to Marlene Krasovitsky, campaign director for advocacy group EveryAGE Counts, this national trend, considered alongside projections from a new intergenerational report (IGR) launched by federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday, showed concerted efforts to combat ageism in the community were needed.
Krasovitsky is calling on the federal government to back an ongoing public and workplace education campaign to ‘challenge the myths and negative attitudes about older people in the workforce’.
“Our assumption that everyone over 65 is rushing to retirement does not stand to scrutiny,” Krasovitsky said.
“The reality is most older Australians are living longer, healthier lives and they want, or need, to work longer. So what’s holding them back? Ageism.”
Krasovitsky argues that ageism is a ‘huge drag’ on the nation’s economic growth. She adds that with the IGR signalling that the longer term impacts of COVID-19 mean a smaller and older population in Australia than previously predicted, more has to be done to encourage the participation of older people in the workforce.
“The IGR notes that the increased participation rate amongst older workers in recent years has been supported by greater life expectancy and better health, as well as greater work flexibility.
“But further gains are missed because of ageist recruitment processes and workplaces. Too many older workers want to work, but miss out because of negative assumptions based only on their age,” Krasovitsky said.
The 2021 Australian IGR marked that worker participation will increase over the next 40 years, spurred by more workers above the age of 40. Without addressing how ageism and discrimination are preventing older people from gaining work, Krasovitsky said the IGR projections simply will not hold true.
She also notes that 37% of people report experiencing discrimination based on age after the age of 50, a jump from 23% who reported the same in 2018. Of that group, 26% report experiencing employment related discrimination.
“If we want to maintain funding for essential services and infrastructure we need to lift the labour force participation rates of older people who want or need to work.
“That means we have to address ageism at its root – the stereotypes, assumptions, and discrimination that currently lock older people out of work,” Krasovitsky said.
Ageism could also be tackled with increased promotion of the avenues people have to raise age-based discrimination, and the adoption of better age-inclusive strategies in the workplace, Krasovitsky suggested.
“There’s no silver bullet for ending ageism, but we need to start tackling this problem systemically now. It’s a vital means of boosting economic growth in the years ahead, given the IGR’s projections.”