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Rant: Old people

The Australian government is looking at extending the pension age to 70, so that older Australians, especially those in the Baby Boom demographic, will be free of the public purse for another 5 years over the present age of 65. Except that it is not the case that older Australians will work another 5 years, as there are no jobs for older Australians. Partly this is due to the unemployment level being at a long time high right now. But even more so, in my view, is that it is due to the inherent ageism of Australian employers.

I have been unemployed for most of the past three years. I am 58. I have applied for nearly 400 jobs in that time, and had precisely no interviews. I have skills in computing, management, design, lecturing, training, office management, and analysis of systems and procedures. Not one interview. I cannot believe that in 400 job hires, I have been the least qualified or that there are applicants who have all my skills and more. I have concluded, after much thought, that employers are ageist.

Now this is hard to prove, just as any other kind of discrimination, and although it is especially illegal in government-related hires, such as university employment, I can think of no other reason why I do not even get interviewed with my experience and record. I’m not boasting, I’m just being realistic. I used to manage a department of 12 staff with a $2 million a year discretionary budget. I have lectured at four of Australia’s biggest and most highly ranked universities. Not one interview.

And I am hardly the only person complaining about this, in Australia or overseas. It is endemic across the western world. Older people will not get considered for jobs if there are younger people who can apply for them, and they will not compete on a level playing field. So we will end up on unemployment anyway. All the fine rhetoric about experience, corporate memory and the like is just that, rhetoric. It is not even honoured much verbally any more unless somebody pushes employer’s federations or government spokespeople.

Given that this is against the Australian, and I warrant most western countries, law, why are there not attempts to police employment practices? I am not suggesting that there should be positive discrimination quotas, but any large enough employer who does not employ a fraction of old people in their hires that is roughly in line with the candidate field generally, should be asked to explain by those who enforce the law, and universities and other institutions that have a demonstrated youth bias (where “youth” < 40 years of age) should be fined the equivalent of what wages those older people would draw, in order to fund our unemployment benefits. That might give a reason to employ people based not upon how good their skin looks, but upon what they can do.

In the meantime, if you can offer an old man some cash, go to my Tip Jar above…


  1. having spent time chatting with you in real life and online, i’d love to hire you! and i think it is a fucking crime that no one would even give you an interview! if i could do something to help you get a job, i’d happily pull whatever strings i have available.

  2. Seconding. Would you accept oversea jobs if available?

    • About half the academic jobs I applied for were in the US or UK or Europe.

  3. I feel your pain, mate, and I’m slowly heading towards you (I’m about 15 years behind you) working in an industry biased against old people (IT). I’ve slowly transgressed from employee to contractor, and I fear the next step is neither. Oh, the irony; I used to work in Age Care.

    I have a plan, though; to create a company based on the premise of knowledge and experience. It would probably have a consultant structure, but I’m open to anything. As *I* value people with a belly full of vigor, that’s what I want to base it on. And we’ll offer what no other company can, because of it; deep thought. I’ll let you know how I fare. And if there’s others around, let’s get together and create something awesome.

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