Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner of Australia, warned on Wednesday that a federal government proposal to raise the pension age to 70 from 67 would be bound to fail if Aussie companies continue to refuse to hire workers who are 50 years old and above.
"We need to stop treating vast sections of our population as though mobility, low commitment and uselessness automatically kick in at a certain age. People can't work until they are 70 if the system won't let them," News.com.au quoted Ryan.
The planned increase in qualifying age for pension is the result of a 2013 recommendation by the Productivity Commission to save the federal government $150 billion between 2025-26 and 2059-60.
However, the proposal is worrying a lot of elderly Australians who fear losing their home or being forced to reverse mortgage it if they could not make ends meet, said Council on the Ageing Chief Executive Ian Yates who requested for a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the issue.
Research found that 10 per cent of Australian companies place a maximum age limit of hiring workers at 50, while 60 per cent of age discrimination complaints filed before the Human Rights Commission for 2012-13 are related to employment matters, Ryan disclosed.
But Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, said most small- and medium-sized firms in the country do not have a deliberate policy to not hire a worker based on a cut-off age benchmark.
He also cited the finance, transport and hospitality industries which often purposely hire older workers because of their maturity and experience such as dealing with rowdy customers in a rural pub.
Strong said it boils down to a person's capacity to perform certain tasks, stressing, quoted by SmartCompany, "Small business owners are just like everybody else - they judge on what they see. Someone can be in their 70s and be fit and healthy, but someone else can be in their 50s and really struggling."