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$10 billion a year: the amount Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan AO says age discrimination is costing the economy every year.

Australians are living longer, healthier lives, but it seems that employers are not willing to take a chance on older employees.

Reports by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have shown that the current life expectancy has risen to 78 years for men and 83 years for women, a rise of 2 and 3 years (respectively) since the stats released in 1994.

Research commissioned by Susan Ryan last year, titled Fact or Fiction? Stereotypes of Older Australians, found that 60 per cent of people between 18-54 held negative attitudes towards older people.

Stephen Collett, ABS Director of Labour Force and Supplementary Surveys, said statistics were showing older people, classified by the ABS as those aged 55 and above, were going longer periods without work.

“Older workers are continuing to experience longer periods of underemployment, 40 weeks for those aged 45-54, and 52 weeks for those aged 55 and over,” Mr Collett said.

So, why aren’t employers willing to take on the older members in society? A variety of reasons come to mind, and most of them are but misconceptions.

Here are some things employers should take into account when considering the age of a potential employee:

Experience:

One of the most obvious reasons to pay attention to the older crowd comes down to experience. A longer period in a particular workforce means a stronger knowledge in that area. Skills are fine-tuned over time, and having employees with an abundance of knowledge would no doubt benefit business.

Influence:

When it comes to employing younger, more inexperienced workers, employers should take into account the amount of training they will need to provide. While a period of preparation is often necessary, it can be shortened if the new employee’s co-workers have a wealth of knowledge to share. Placing younger employees under the tutelage of an older worker could not only ensure a faster learning process, it may strengthen the camaraderie in a workplace.

Reliability:

While many employers worry about the period of time an older employee may spend in a job before retiring or quitting, they may be surprised to learn that older people are more likely to stay in their positions. Experiencepays.gov.au states that ‘workers aged over 55 are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20–24.’

Untapped talent:

A recent Dynamic Business article reported on the findings published in Hudson Report: Employment Trends, which showed that ’60 per cent of hiring managers believe there is a shortage of talent and 90 per cent cite the sourcing of talent as the most challenging aspect of the recruitment process.’

Employers should consider the wealth of untapped talent that older employees could bring. They may even provide that extra kick needed to get ahead of competition.

Government incentive:

The Australian Government is determined to increase workforce participation numbers in the ageing population. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker launched the Restart programme in July this year, offering a $10,000 incentive to hire and retain mature age job seekers aged 50 and over who have been in receipt of income support for six months or more.

Restart wage subsidy payments are now made in 4 instalments, with $3,000 at 6 and 12 months of employment, and $2,000 at 18 and 24 months of employment.

More information on the Restart wage subsidy can be found at http://www.employment.gov.au/restart-wage-subsidy.