After a year-long study, the Australian Human Rights Commission has issued a breakthrough report recommending concrete ways that government can tackle age discrimination in employment.
Australia is light years ahead of the United States with respect to age discrimination in employment, which is seen as a drag on the nation’s gross domestic product and a drain on public coffers through unnecessary social welfare costs. U.S. policy-makers, by contrast, have done virtually nothing to address our nation’s rapidly aging workforce. Moreover, incredibly, the federal government actually engages in age discrimination in hiring, while ignoring widespread complaints of age discrimination in hiring.
The report, entitled Willing to Work, could be a starting point for an American initiative to combat age discrimination.
One of the report’s recommendations is to encourage the governing bodies of Australia’s nine states and territories to leverage their “capacity to shape and influence the market” through procurement strategies designed to place older and disabled workers into jobs. Government suppliers would be asked to demonstrate their commitment to workplace diversity strategies, non-discriminatory recruitment and retention practices. They also would be asked to set and report upon voluntary targets for the employment of older and disabled workers.
The report recommends a several-pronged national approach:
- Establish a Minister for Longevity. (This is the equivalent of a U.S. Cabinet minister post).
- Develop a national action plan to address employment discrimination on the basis of age and disability that includes “targets, actions, performance indicators and timeframes.”
- Expand the mission of the country’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which would be called Workplace Gender Equality and Diversity Agency.
- Introduce a national education campaigns to dispel myths and stereotypes about older people and people with disabilities.
- Adopt targets for employment and retention of older people and people with disability in the public service.
A national survey conducted by the Australian commission in 2014 found that 27 percent of Australians aged 50 and older had experienced age discrimination in the prior two years. When older Australians are unemployed, it takes them more than twice as long to find work.According to the report, victims of age discrimination experience diminished self-confidence, self-esteem and are less motivated to remain in the workplace.
Australia has declared that the right to work, free from discrimination, is a fundamental human right.