The Sydney Morning Herald published on 3 September 2016 a detailed and upfront outlook on the problem of ageism and age discrimination within the Australian workforce and its impact on unemployment on mature age individuals. The article was written by Anna Patty and titled: ‘Caught in an unemployment netherworld: too young to retire, too old to get a job’.
Ricci Bartels who is 63 years of age spent 26 years working to help find employment for the unemployed. She has now been unemployed since 2012. Ricci features in a two-minute interview as part of the article. I found her to be a true inspiration and her words still impact and resonate on me.
Following is Ricci Bartels’ full interview excerpt:
“Let me say to Australia and my neighbours and to my friends and to my colleagues and to this wonderful so-called ‘fair society’, it is impossible! It is impossible to live on Newstart Allowance which is $400 under the poverty line. I lost my job through being made redundant in 2012. It’s not just finding another job, it’s loving the work I did in helping and advocating and giving people a voice…empowering them. Now I am at the other end of the spectrum myself, disempowered by being unemployed at 63 and having a lot to contribute, a lot of expertise, a lot of experience, and in an industry that is actually growing with more connections than most people who become unemployed and I cannot find a job. You have to pay your bills, you have to rely on your support on family and I am lucky I have that, but most people on unemployment don’t have that. It is absolutely impossible; there are mental health and physical health issues that come with it. Your confidence, for someone resilient and confident, you can feel it dissipating, you can feel the drain. My mantra has to be (and I have created it) is every time I get a rejection from a job application, and I feel really down, my mantra is you will only allow yourself to be depressed for 24 hours and then you get back on the horse. But how long can you do that? That’s the question, how long can you maintain that?”
In brief, the article outlined the following evidence-based claims from new research conducted by The Brotherhood of St Laurence:
→ In 2015, 40% of recipients of employment services were mature age Australians who spent more than a year on income support.
→ Employment services are failing to help older Australians (white collar workers with management experience) to find appropriate work; they are being funnelled into entry-level low-skilled and low-paid jobs.
→ Mature aged individuals receiving Newstart Allowance are being stigmatised as dole bludgers.
→ People 45+ years in age are increasingly caught between work and retirement – too old for ageist employers to hire and too young to retire. They are increasingly dependent on employment services and welfare, and at risk of living in poverty.
→ Labour market figures for March 2016 revealed over 20% of people on Newstart Allowance for more than a year were over the age of 50.
→ It is difficult for mature-age job seekers to maintain their professional status.
→ Permanent jobs are disappearing with the focus on contract on casual work.
→ Employment services/recruitment staff are becoming younger (in their 20s or early 30s) – this may contribute to unconscious bias, negative stereotypes and poor appreciation of the skills of older job seekers.
→ Those who lose their jobs after the age of 45 risk entering old age in poverty.
→ If you are unemployed at 55 and cannot get back into work, one remains in unemployment status for longer and can quickly lead to living in poverty with homelessness an increasing flow on effect.
→ People interviewed for this new research were unable to afford dental care, new glasses, and several were homeless.
→ For women, employability focused on looking young, fit and attractive – women were deemed to be looked upon as ‘invisible’ when they lost their youthful appearance; and for men, they needed to be physically fit and quick workers to keep their jobs.
→ Younger bosses felt intimidated and threatened by older workers.
Overall, this article resonated with me on so many levels. I am a Career Development Practitioner, and I have many mature age clients who are struggling to gain promotions, or wanting to move into different fields/careers and industries. Their age is the #1 contributing factor to their struggles and challenges. I too have turned 50 this year and I have been saying for years, that if I was to put myself out there on the job market and apply for roles, I would be viewed and deemed as unemployable. My age (although I have taken very good care of myself), combined with the fact my business is a ‘one-man’ business operation in which I absolutely love being my own boss, and not having a direct team I work closely with on a day-to-day basis – all these combine to make me an ‘undesirable’ and virtually unemployable candidate.
When I consult with clients I always forewarn those of mature age on ageism and age discrimination in the private sector – it is rife! I do advise that there is more opportunity and less of this ‘ism’ in the Government sector at Local, State and Federal levels. However, I heard a very disturbing statement from Bill Shorten during the 2016 Federal Election about age discrimination in the Government sector, how this is a big problem and needs to be resolved! Well, like I say, you learn something new every day – I never thought it was that bad in Government sector. But there you have it – stated clearly for all to hear.
I ask the all-important question, what have Australia’s key strategists and policy makers been actually doing to implement workable and viable solutions to combat this escalating problem? The time to act is now!
A concerned citizen,