50 is the New Black

50 is the New Black

50 is the new black

If you are over 50 don’t bother reading this. You have already experienced it.

Of course if you are an early Gen X then start worrying because the BIG FIVE-O can affect you in more ways than you possibly thought.

Or if you are a manager or an HR professional well, this should well and truly be of interest.

Old is (perceived as) slow

A recent report from the Australian Human Rights Commission (2015) on the National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace , found that: the most commonly experienced forms of age discrimination were related to limiting employment, promotion or training opportunities and perceptions that older people have outdated skills, or were too slow to learn new things. Jokes and derogatory comments based on age were also amongst the most common discriminatory behaviours reported.

This Report studied the prevalence, nature and impact of workplace age discrimination amongst the Australian population aged 50 years and older.

In 2009-10, people aged 55 years and over made up 16% of the total labour force.1 Of course, that ABS figure was 5 years ago so already many of those people have already retired so workplace discrimination is no longer an issue for them.

The issue is for those workplaces they have left behind, for they have a very real problem replacing the skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom of these veterans who were and continue to be quietly eased out the door. Unfortunately those hard earned skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom is hard to quantify and so doesn’t come attached to any specific economic value so, it would seem at first glance that there is no cost to business in replacing it.

Why do we discount the experience that comes with age?

Ageism in an ageing population

Age discrimination is far from restricted to a few isolated incidents – the Commission’s Report2 found that more than one in four or, 27% of Australians aged 50 years and older who participated in the workforce at some time in the last two years experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace at least once during that time period.

A very rough estimate would be 500,000+ instances of workplace age discrimination over two years.

Nearly three in five or, 58% of those who looked for paid work were a target of discrimination because of their age.3

If there was anything at all that was positive the Report found there was no significant difference in the discrimination rates for men at 28% and women at 26%. Similarly, there were no differences in discrimination levels between those living in metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions.

Gender and location doesn’t seem to come into it. If you are old, doesn’t matter what or where you are, you are fair game. But why is this so?

Well, how about the perception that older workers are less productive? Research suggests otherwise – Using a standard measure of worker productivity – hourly wages – workers between 60 and 74 are more productive than average workers who are younger.4

The real issue in the workplace

So what does the Black stand for in my title ‘50 is the new Black’?

Sadly, it’s Depression. Workplace Depression is estimated to cost $730m pa with the biggest loss accruing to employers.5

Recent changes to the anti-discrimination legislation make it illegal to discriminate on age or mental health instead, employers must be pro-actively promoting an inclusive and diverse workplace.

Do you have the policies, procedures and communication strategies in place to make sure you comply with the legislation and, achieve the rewards diversity brings with it?

If you’re not sure then contact us at the College for Adult Learning. We have a wide range of programs to assist you.

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  1. 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, Sep 2010 Australian Bureau of Statistics – accessed 29/4/15 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features30Sep+2010 []
  2. Australian Human Rights Commission (2015) National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace. Pp18. []
  3. Ibid pp. 19 []
  4. Burtless, G. The impact of population aging and delayed retirement on workforce productivity Centre for Retirement Research at Boston College. Boston College Massachusetts May 2013 p3. []
  5. Vic Heath Excessive Pressure at Work 6th October 2010 https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/media-releases/report-shows-preventable-job-stress-costs-$730m-a-year []