24 February 2021

SUBJECT: The Silent Crisis of Older Workers. 
ADAM STEPHEN, HOST: If you lose your job after the age of 50, you're actually in the hardest age bracket to find work again. In fact one in five Australians aged between 55 and 64 are jobless. And it seems a lot of the reasons could be linked to what we might loosely define as age discrimination. The Federal Shadow Minister for Financial Services and the Shadow Assistant Treasurer is Stephen Jones. He's calling this a silent crisis. And he wants us really to be having a national discussion around this really, really difficult position that many people over the age of 50 are finding themselves in, particularly in the midst of the global pandemic and the economic downturn. Stephen Jones is with us this afternoon on ABC radio across Regional Queensland. Thanks for joining us.
STEPHEN: When did this really start to become something that you were becoming aware of to the point You actually thought you need to start raising this in the public sphere?
JONES: For the last number of years, when I do what I call my outreach, my mobile offices, when I stand on a corner invite people in my electorate to come and talk to me, day after day I'd get stories from older workers who were saying they've lost their job. Or they've had to finish up because of a health problem or a family issue. They've struggled to get another job. They were discriminated against in the workplace, you know they were the oldest bloke in the shop, so they got the chop first when there was a downturn. They talk about all their skills. They talk about all their experience. And then they talk about the fact that they send off literally hundred and hundreds of job apps in a year, but don't get any interviews. And they put it down to age discrimination. Or they put it down to the fact that you know, they may have had an injury over their working life, which doesn't impact on their ability to do the job they're applying for but they don't get an interview anyway. Then I started looking at the numbers. And it was extraordinary. One in five workers over the age of 55 are jobless. That’s 20 percent. We talk about youth unemployment being a national crisis. Well youth unemployment rates are 13 percent. So for older Australians it’s nearly double the youth unemployment rate, but nobody talks about it. That's why I'm thinking this is a silent crisis. We've got to get it on the agenda. We've got to get out in the open because if we don't do that, nobody will do anything about it.
STEPHEN: And these are presumably people that want to continue working beyond the age of 50. And of course, not many of us can afford to retire at 50 or 55. Why is such a challenge do you think? Is there any common threads that you’re hearing from punters as to why it's such a challenge to get another job if you lose your job in your 50s?
JONES: For some of them they're trying to get another job in the same field of work that they've been in all their life. And maybe that factory, that mine, that job no longer exists in their region. But they've got a house and a family so they can't just up and leave. So they're trying to swap jobs or move into another field. They can't prove to their employers that they got life experiences that matter so they're missing out. Some of them are saying I'm just being discriminated against, you know, point blank. I got the chop and a younger poor employee got my job. Hear lots of that. So discrimination is a factor. Then I started looking at what the Government's doing in its own backyard. And you know, we've got all these anti-discrimination laws, but sometimes the Government is actually just as bad as the people they’re lecturing about not discriminating against workers in the workplace.
JONES: Well, just look at the way the Government contracts for example. Or the way that it deals with redundancies in its own workplace. Often it's the older workers that leave first, and the younger ones, sometimes younger workers replace older workers. It's as simple as that. But also the way does it outsourcing or contracting out or tendering for jobs. Community services as a great example. Most community services is one way or another paid for by Government. Short-term contracts, they might let a contract to provide a community service. Often older women in those sort of jobs, the contract ends and a new operator gets the contract. And lo and behold the older workers don't get rehired. Happens time and time and time again. So discrimination is actually operating in Government employment and in government-funded employment. So we got a lot of work to do to sort this problem out