Age and Disability Commissioner Susan Ryan has begun work as the Ambassador for Mature Age Employment, a newly created role to help build greater awareness amongst employers of the business benefits of hiring older workers and to improve the labour force participation rates of older people.
The appointment was announced by Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey and Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker on 24th June at the relaunch of the government’s Restart program for mature age workers. The launch was held at the Koomarri centre in Canberra – a not-for-profit organisation with more than 60 years of operation in the ACT and NSW.
The new Ambassador position will help build on the Government’s streamlining of the Restart program, which provides subsidies for businesses hiring older workers. “I am pleased that the Government is improving the Restart programme to make it even more attractive and easier to access, and I am looking forward to promoting Restart to businesses around Australia,” said Commissioner Ryan.
“Older Australians are the nation’s fastest growing age group, as well as being fitter and more actively involved in our society than ever before. While they are contributing significantly to the community and the economy in a wide range of ways – there are nevertheless major barriers for older Australians in trying to extend their careers and in particular, re-enter the workforce.”
According to the 2015 Intergenerational Report, projections indicate that by 2055, life expectancy at birth will be 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women in Australia, so there is a growing urgency in addressing the need to keep workers aged over 65 in the workforce for longer.
Commissioner Ryan, who has been a powerful advocate for mature aged job seekers during her career, sees the new position as a natural extension of her role as Age Discrimination Commissioner.
During her watch, the Commission has begun a National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination against Older Australians and Australians with Disability. This inquiry, which opens for submissions and consultations on Friday June 26 (see details below) will address findings from the Commission’s National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace. The survey showed that over a quarter of Australians aged 50 years and over have experienced some form of age discrimination in the last two years.
In addition, the Commission has spearheaded a public awareness initiative through the “Power of Oldness’ campaign, and a Good practice Good Business” resource for employers to help prevent workplace discrimination.
“These activities complement the Government’s drive to encourage business to change their views and to hire more mature age Australians through programmes such as the Restart Wage Subsidy,” said Commissioner Ryan.
Ms Ryan says one of the biggest challenges ahead will be convincing employers to change their attitudes towards older workers.
“Many employers have in their head beliefs that once people are over 50 it’s downhill all the way, that they can’t be retrained, that they’re not going to fit in, they’re not going to be productive. All of those ideas are wrong – wrong, wrong – and we have to change them.”
“It’s about changing attitudes And this is why Restart is such a good, well-targeted project, because it says to employers: have a look, if you’re running a business and you need extra employees, you might be a bit worried about taking them on because they might need retraining if they’re older. Here is $10,000 to assist you with that; you can use it for retraining, or for making other accommodations.”
Information about how to access the Restart program is on the Australian government website: www.employment.gov.au/restart-wage-subsidy