Too old to work at 50: Survey

A new survey on attitudes to employing older workers has found that up to 30 per cent of Australian employers are still reluctant to hire workers over a certain age, and for more than two thirds of this group, that age was over 50.


The survey of more than 900 human resource professionals was conducted by the Australian HR Institute supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission. It builds on research conducted by AHRI in 2014 and 2012.

Despite a significant minority reporting their organisation was reluctant to hire people over 50, the trend overall indicates an increase in respondents reporting definitely no reluctance to employ older workers (28 per cent in 2018, up from 8 per cent in 2014).

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said while it was deeply concerning that some employers were still reluctant to hire people over 50, it was encouraging to see progress.

“Age discrimination in employment is tied to damaging, dated and inaccurate ideas about older workers. It is heartening to see the age at which people define “older’ has shifted upwards to 61 years or more and that more recruiters don’t see age as a barrier,” Dr Patterson said.

“As we live longer and healthier lives it is crucial for people to be able to contribute through the paid workforce, which is not only good for the economy and workplaces but contributes to a sense of meaning and purpose for individuals.”

AHRI chief executive Lyn Goodear said the demographic group leaving the workforce in significant numbers at present is largely made up of the cohort born in the years after the Second World War.

“That is a disproportionately large cohort, yet only 21 per cent of respondents to this study report their organisation engages in phased retirement practices as a way to manage the loss of intellectual capital,” Ms Goodear said.

Key findings:

  • A majority (63 per cent) of respondents classify an older worker as 61 years of age or older, an upwards shift since 2014.
  • More than one in three respondents (34 per cent) believe there is no difference between older and younger workers technology skills and abilities, 14 per cent more than in 2014.
  • Fifty-eight per cent of the sample group expect to retire at 66 years of age or older (compared with 42 per cent in 2014), and 20 per cent expect to retire at 71 years of age of older (16 per cent in 2014).
  • Flexible work is the top reason respondents cite that would encourage them to remain in the workforce, increasing 8 per cent since 2014.
  • Flexible working hours is the most common tool organisations use to retain older workers (76 per cent).
  • More than half (56 per cent) of respondent organisations do not have a transition-to-retirement strategy in place.
  • Respondents indicate the main advantages of recruiting older workers are the experience they bring (76 per cent) and the professional knowledge they have acquired (68 per cent).
  • Fewer 2018 respondents than 2014 report their organisation ensures that job advertising content attracts a full range of ages, and that date of birth details are excluded from job application forms.
  • The most common recruitment practices for attracting older workers are reported as offering flexible work arrangements (42 per cent), and training recruitment staff to ensure practices are free of age bias (32 per cent).
  • Since 2014, there has been a 5 per cent increase in the number of responses indicating no obstacles in recruiting older workers.
  • Almost a third (30 per cent) of respondents indicate their organisation has an age above which they are reluctant to recruit workers. The majority (68 per cent) of respondents disclosing reluctance indicate that there is an unwillingness to hire workers over the age of 50.
  • In 2018, the most common reason older workers leave respondent organisations is retirement (77 per cent), a reduction of 6 per cent since 2014.
  • Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents indicate older worker departures have caused a loss of key skills and knowledge in their organisation (an increase of 17 per cent), although only 26 per cent report capturing corporate knowledge from exiting older workers.
  • An 8 per cent reduction since 2014 is reported in the 2018 findings respondent organisations using mentoring programs to facilitate knowledge transfer between older and younger workers.
  • Only 8 per cent of respondents report that line managers in their organisation are given training on how to manage different generations, though 22 per cent are given training on unconscious bias.
  • There is a reported increase of 8 per cent in organisations that seldom or never address age-related bias as part of unconscious bias training since 2014.

See the report "Employing older workers" at : .

31 October 2018.