16 September 2021

Have you been discriminated against because of your age? You're not alone

| Dominic Giannini
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ACT Youth Coalition Executive Director Dr Justin Barker.

ACT Youth Coalition Executive Director Dr Justin Barker said that ageism continues to impact young people. Photo: Supplied.

Ageism is the most accepted form of prejudice but the least understood form of discrimination in Australia, according to new research from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The AHRC report found that more than three in five Australians said they were discriminated against because of their age in the last five years.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said the evidence suggests that ageism is more pervasive and socially accepted than sexism or racism.

“In releasing our report, I call on everyone to think about ageism and how it affects you and those close to you,” Dr Patterson said.

“Every Australian must do what they can to challenge ageist attitudes in themselves and others, so together we can reduce ageism for Australians of all ages.

“Age is not the problem. Ageism is.”

Typical forms of agist discrimination included young adults aged between 18 and 39 being condescended to or ignored, particularly at work; middle-aged people between the ages of 40 and 61 being turned down for a job; and people over the age of 62 being “helped” without being asked because of their age.

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Youth Coalition of the ACT executive director Dr Justin Barker said ageism impacts young people due to blanket assertions based on erroneous assumptions.

“What happens to children and young people as they grow older is their capacity, ability, knowledge and accumulation of experience mean that we do discriminate against them differently at different points in their trajectory,” he told Region Media.

“You give them this incremental responsibility based on their capabilities – like booking appointments without your parents, getting your learners licence and being able to vote – which is somewhat responsible, but the problem is we discriminate and condescend against people in ways that are not valid.

“This then informs how people treat each other and become cultural norms and have a very real impact on people’s lives.”

Dr Barker said that a young person’s lack of influence and power makes them susceptible to discrimination, especially at work.

“We think we can get away with treating young people in a particular way because they have less power and less influence,” he said.

“We treat them more poorly in the workplace. The rates of bullying, sexual assault and wage theft disproportionately affect young people, and that is because people think they can treat people this way and go, ‘what are they going to do about it?’ They have less power.”

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Dr Patterson said the tension between generations arose from stereotyping, but most Australians rejected the premise of these stereotypes when questioned.

Seventy per cent of Australians disagreed that today’s older generation is leaving the world in a worse state, and fewer than 20 per cent agreed any age group was a burden to their family or society.

The report also found that 90 per cent of Australians agreed that ageism exists in Australia, 83 per cent agreed that it was a problem, and 65 per cent agreed that it affects people of all ages.

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The most heartwrenching cases are for those towards the end of their careers with still lots to give, but not given a chance to give because they can’t get past the first hurdle. I saw it for the last 10 years of my Mum’s working life – she was exceptionally competent, but couldn’t get a look in because of her age an

But it happens at the other end too – young people that are exceptionally competent and ready to progress to greater responsibility, but overlooked because some bosses are obsessed with the ‘grass is always greener’ view of getting outsiders in, are stuck in the ’60s where seniority was the be all and end all of the workplace, or simply for whatever reason afraid of investing properly into younger workers by giving them genuine chances to progress (this comment is in reference to people clearly ‘up to the job’ not to everyone).

It is an awfully tough nut to crack, and one that won’t easily be solved anytime soon, for all the different potential cases.

I work with several men and women between 18 and 24 years old. For the most part they are immature, take many more sick days than their colleagues and lack anything that resembles a work ethic.

And try telling them to put their phones away and do some work. The millennial catch cry of “you’re bullying” haunts your life as you spend months under investigation by HR and management.

Those of you who have raised these men and women and sent them into the world, should be ashamed of yourselves.

I have seen several sources that have studied sick leave and it is often not the oldest group which takes the most sick leave, but the younger. As this link has,

“The most striking finding was that older workers past pensionable age took the least sick leave.”


I found a US graph as well, that showed the younger workers took more sick leave than older workers. I’m having trouble with the link or I would display it, but basically, up to ten days sick leave the group who took the most was the 31 to 45 years, more than ten days the group who took the most was the 18 to 30 years.
This last ‘more than ten days’, had 18 to 30 years at 16%, 31 to 45 years at 11% and 46 to 60 years at 4%.

I always find comments like this amusing. That somehow the next generation is infinitely worse then previous generations – the fact is at that age most people are exactly the same – still trying to find their identity in the world, who they are, what life is all about. That means huge variation around work ethic and ability at that point. It is just manifesting itself in a different way for this generation due to digital technology, that is all.

I’d also ponder that there is a lot more to the story than just telling someone to put their phone away if that is ending up in months of HR investigations…….. management styles need to adapt with the times too.

I’m not 100% sure who you were answering. I don’t think anyone would necessarily argue with what you wrote. I think the relative point here is that older people are discriminated against when applying for a job, and one of the reasons used might be that they will take more sick leave, when research hasn’t shown that, in fact, often the opposite. This could be because many no longer have dependant children, and so aren’t taking sick leave to cover family problems. That is something for employers to take aboard.

I quit one job aged 60, got another job no problems. Then I quit that job as the previous employer wanted me back. No uni degree, no qualifications

I ended up going back part time to my initial job for a couple of years, as several people lobbied for my return. Then money ran out again and I was jobless again. However I found it hard to get another job because of age. It depends what job one has held and how much those qualifications/experience are in demand. I don’t think nurses, for example, have difficulty getting a job of some kind.
When I was in my early twenties, almost every job I applied for I was offered. A big difference to when I was in my 50s. I had no idea in my twenties that the main reason I got offered those jobs with no qualifications (I got some qualifications later), was my age. Then I just thought I was the best applicant. Likely I wasn’t, but I was the age they wanted.

I will add to my other comments on ageism. Once I was part of an interview panel and was the youngest member on it. We interviewed a number of people of various ages. My favourite for the job was a 60 year old. He appeared the most qualified to me and didn’t appear old and decrepit to me. He was slim and fit looking. I recommended him, but the other older members of the interview panel outvoted me and we got a younger person. Now I wonder if they saw the older person as a threat, while as I was younger I didn’t. I have tended too, even when younger, to not notice people’s age as much as others my age did, as long as they looked still physically able. Many younger people though do consider anyone over 40 as past it. They only look at the number.

I’ve been discriminated against because of age. After being laid off with many others, mostly older workers – I was 51, I applied for a job. I rang first to find out more about it and when I mentioned my qualifications the woman I was speaking to sounded pleased with me. “You sound like just the type of person we’re looking for,” she said. (I will mention I’ve been told my voice sounds younger than my age on the phone.) I lacked one area of knowledge. “That’s no problem,” she said. “The last girl also didn’t know that and we sent her to college for six months.”

“Girl” flashed warning signs to me. Anyway, I sent in my application. I didn’t get an interview. The letter I got to tell me I didn’t have the job, had, “We were very impressed by your qualifications, but we found someone who suited us better.” Yeah, younger, I thought!!!
Yes, I have been discriminated against because of age. I started leaving out any reference to dates in my applications. I was desperate just to get to any actual interview, as I know I look younger than my years, and hoped that would assist me. Never made it to any interviews though and gave up trying.

I want to say not all places of work discriminated because of my age. A couple of places I applied for did consider me seriously. One job with many applications I made the final two. I was told they only considered the two of us for that job. Another I had a long phone conversation, was very qualified in one area they wanted, but not well enough in another area. Similar to the guy they interviewed before me the woman told me. The woman sounded disappointed. Fair enough.

Capital Retro8:55 am 19 Sep 21

‘Onya Damien.

Well, the pal from Down Under actively discriminate against the over 60s. They are limited to that AstraZ poison, whereas all over age groupss can have a choice of vaccines. What hope is there is the highest office in the land discriminates based on age?

Capital Retro9:58 pm 18 Sep 21

I’m one of that age group who have had both jabs of AstraZ and I am as healthy as ever.

I think you are talking a lot of crap just to discredit Morrison.

Talk about drawing a long bow Michael – I can’t stand Slowmo, but that decision just reflects the health advice of the time in terms of AZ being the optimal choice for the group of society with the most at risk from COVID-19.

All the younger cohort also had to wait a long while to get vaccinated, so that priority groups could get the jab first- many of which still haven’t got off their butt and gone and got it. Just a stupid to try and class that as ‘age discrimination’…..

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