Australian businesses need to train and retain their older workers as well as hire mature age candidates.
There is considerable evidence that mature age workers deliver a net benefit of $1956 per year according to the report Business, Work and Ageing, ‘Profiting from maturity: The social and economic costs of mature age unemployment.’
Compared to other workers, older workers have high retention rates, lower absenteeism, decreased recruitment costs and greater return on investments.
The inaugural Australian Productivity Pulse survey found that older workers were more motivated to perform - and less interested in pay - than their younger counterparts.
Even so, the old school of thought is still strong. Traditionally, seasoned workers have been put ‘out to pasture’ in favour of younger workers.
Dr David Ames, a professor of ageing and health at Melbourne University and director of the National Ageing Research Institute, says the opposite is the case.
''Cognitive decline in the elderly is overstated. Only 1 per cent of the over-65s require treatment by psychiatrists for major depressive disorders. Dementia occurs in only 1 per cent of the 60-65 age group, rising to 8 per cent for those aged 75,” Professor Ames said.
''The majority of older workers are fit and well. There are clear benefits from staying in employment. Staying mentally active and socially connected leads to better cognitive flexibility,'' he said.
Mature age job seeker Brian, 60, of Sydney was retrenched by a major airline two years ago after more than 20 years of service. He had applied for more than 100 positions but was struggling to find employment.
“I remained positive for the first six months or so and then I started to get depressed. I wanted to work, I have employable skills but no one would give me a look in,” Brian said.
Brian won a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Court case in 2010 after an employer interview panel said by innuendo that he was ‘too old’ to perform light handling duties.
“The interviewers made an assumption based on preconceived views of older people. It shouldn’t have come to that. My motivation for raising the complaint was to try and educate the people involved that everybody deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of their age,” he said.
According to Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan a key part of her role was to educate both employers and HR companies about the fairness and utility of retaining and hiring mature age workers.
“I think the problem lies between both HR recruiters and employers. Some recruiters are simply parading ageist stereotypes and are knocking people out at the CV stage. Part of my role is to educate both employers and recruiters and explode some of the myths about older employees in the workforce,” Ms Ryan said.
“Business groups such as the Australian Industry Group (AIG) are leading the way in spreading the message because they can see the writing on the wall – for business productivity, we need simply need to retain, train and hire more mature age workers.”
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