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related to accessing workers
compensation, income protection
and professional licensing,
must be urgently addressed to
ensure older workers are not
only enabled but encouraged
to participate in the workforce,
according to a new report.
An Australian Human Rights
Commission's paper, released
in early June, has found that
age-related limits in many of our
laws and policies are blocking
opportunities for older people
to participate in the workforce
and creating financial and
And, according to the Working
Past Our 60s: Reforming Laws and
Policies for the Older Worker report,
they are also sending the message
to older workers that they should
not be in the workforce.
"Although most people want
to continue to work through their
60's and beyond, they face a
number of external barriers," Age
Susan Ryan said.
"Recent research tells us that,
of people aged over 55 years,
there are about two million who
are capable and want to work,
but are barred from jobs."
Ms Ryan said that most
stopped at 65, or soon after,
and income insurance was hard
to get after 60 years old.
"This is a big barrier for
tradespeople who need to insure
their business and themselves.
For example, age bars in licensing
stop capable vehicle drivers from
getting jobs, even in the current
climate of skills shortages."
By highlighting how these
arrangements affect older workers,
Commissioner Ryan said she
hopes to create impetus for reform,
in state and Commonwealth
workers compensation schemes
and in the private insurance industry.
Commissioner Ryan launched
the report in Melbourne with the
Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister
for Employment and Workplace
Relations, Financial Services and
CEO of National Seniors
Australia, Michael O'Neill, said
the paper identified issues that
his organisation had been talking
about a decade ago and that it
was "time for the Commonwealth
to stop producing reports, lead
by example and get on with
introducing practical change".
He said research by National
Seniors, quoted in the report,
revealed the annual loss of to the
economy of not utilising the skills
and experience of older workers
was $10.8 billion.
"It's all starting to feel like
'Groundhog Day'," said Mr
O'Neill. "It's time government put
down its pens and got on with the
business of removing these long-
identified legislative barriers".
CEO of COTA (Council on the
Ageing), Ian Yates, agreed that
COTA and other bodies have
been working to address this
issue and other related-ones for
about a decade.
"The new commissioner
is doing her best to raise
awareness [of these issues],
and strengthening of the Act
[Age Discrimination Act 2004]
will help," Mr Yates said. "But
the federal government can
show leadership through
raising workers' compensation
at the Council of Australian
Governments. That's the one
that worries us."
However, Mr Yates
also acknowledged that,
"notwithstanding those years
spent lobbying, workforce
demographics are going to force
employers generally to deal with
ageism and age discrimination".
While Commissioner Ryan
agreed that the projected impact
of Australia's ageing population
had been known for a long time,
she said its real impact on public
policywas only relatively new.
But, she said, there was now a
groundswell of interest and action
taking place in governments
and businesses as the
consequences of the demographic
shift became clearer.
"I think it's finally biting and
my own view is that it's the result
of two big factors," said Ms Ryan.
"It's the coming together of
a very publicly -- and at times,
controversially -- discussed skills
shortage, and the fact that we
do have a growing economy, as
the economic results announced
"The conjunction of those
two things is really focusing
attention on this issue and I feel
an urgent sense of having to
get these things done now...
This is the moment and the
federal government is very aware
of doing everything they can
to keep people working in this
ever growing proportion of
our population." n
By Keryn Curtis
Older workers' time has come
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