Unless you have a Dorian Gray picture in your cupboard the word Ageism is frightening. For those of you too young to know who Dorian Gray was an 1890 novel by Oscar Wilde, where a young English Noble had a picture painted with magical powers so the picture would age and he would not. Cool trick if you can locate a talented artist!!
So, back to Ageism the Sydney Morning herald in a March 2016 issue covered an article about Ageism and that 50 is now considered old. It talked about a women who left the workforce in her late 40’s for a short period and tried to return at 50 and found it almost impossible.
Unfortunately this is not a unique story. Age discrimination is rife in every facet of Australian society. The article covered the government bribing companies to take on older workers by offering a $10,000 grant to employ older long term unemployed workers. The scheme has been a dismal failure; fewer than 3000 people were involved in this scheme.
The government is very aware that people need to work longer for financial reasons. To keep people at work longer the government will increase the retirement age in 2025 to 67 which will continue to grow until 2035 when it reaches 70. The article went on to point out that the fatal flaw in this “grand scheme” is that employers are reducing the older workers from their workforce at alarming rates.
To add insult to injury the definition of an older worker is getting younger. It appears to be going down in 5 yearly increments. Forget 65, think 50 or even 45. For redundancy purposes an employee who is over 45 is defined as an older worker!!
The article further noted that older workers were taking 72 weeks to re-enter the workforce. There are more people over the age of 50 on the work for the dole schemes than people below 22. There are more than 210,000 Australians over the age of 50 living off unemployment benefits. It stated that women were going under the knife to make themselves look younger. Serious intervention is required if for no other reasons than self interest, because unless you have the Dorian Gray portrait, the chances of this happening to all of us is very real.
Our major issue is that no one is really shouting this from the rooftops. This creature is relatively silent. The government and the community need to do something. Someone needs to stand on the roof tops and shout about it.
Of course we can add the being female also argument, but I would like this to be about positive intent, rather than throwing our hands in the air and giving up.
We are a country of pretty amazing men and women. We have achieved levels of success in business despite our less than ideal government situation, extraordinary tax levels and during a GFC (Global Financial Crises). Small businesses employ more than 45% of total employment in Australia. Take a bow my friends. That is pretty impressive.
So what is our next step? Do something about this Ageism. Employ older people in your business is the best way to start. I use to have 20 something’s working for me. I recently employed a person in their late 40’s and she is a dream. There are processes and procedures in my business now that I have no involvement in. The business is being run like it should be.
My consultants are older also. They have years of experience which can only be beneficial to my clients. When I recruit for my clients I try to locate someone a bit older for them, to see if it fits the company. Sometimes an older person isn’t going to “gel” with the team, but it is good to test it out before you discount it. A lot of older people are really quite “young at heart”. They don’t think of themselves as older because it wasn’t that long ago that they weren’t.
Somehow we wake up and we are 50 something and we are grandparents. I can assure, it is a shock, every time my grandsons call me Mamar, I look around for an old person.
Remember, that we are setting a precedent, for other business owners to follow. We all have the hope of selling our business in the future, wouldn’t it be nice to sell something that has a lot of experience. That has to increase your goodwill as a minimum.
The second thing we can do is talk about ageism at our networking groups and social settings. Get the word out that this is an unacceptable situation we have found ourselves in. Encourage them to take on “an oldie”!! They just might thank you.