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[Mature age workers told they are too old to work]

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Australian Democrats New data shows that the number of mature aged workers dropping out of the workforce rose last year despite the overall fall in unemployment, with being told they were 'too old' the main reason, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats Employment spokesperson, Senator John Cherry, said the surprise result in ABS figures came as the Senate was set to debate the Age Discrimination Bill and just three weeks after Treasurer Costello warned Australians had to work longer.

"I am very disturbed that the only category of 'discouraged jobseeker' that rose in 2003 was that of the 60-plus workers, with drops in all other age groups," he said.

"The number of 60 plus workers who wanted to work but had given up looking for work, rose 40% in 2003, from 17,900 to 25,300.

"61% of older workers cited 'considered too old by employers' as the reason for giving up looking for work, 9% citing a lack of skills or training and 25.5% citing a lack of jobs.

"The problem of discouraged workers is clearly enormous in the mature aged categories when you consider that there were 39,000 workers aged over 55 officially unemployed, but a further 33,000 not regarded as 'unemployed' because they had given up looking for


"In fact, there were 114,900 mature aged workers who wanted to work, but who fell outside the official definition of unemployment.

"Adding in these workers raises the unemployment rate for mature aged workers from the 'official' level of 3.2% to a more dramatic 11.5%, which is a shameful and wasteful use of the skills and experience of mature aged employers.

"The Howard Government needs to acknowledge that mature aged workers face serious age discrimination problems in the workforce.

"The Independent Review of the Job Network in 2002 found the system was letting mature aged workers down, and clearly little has improved since then.

"A major and concerted effort is needed to re-educate employers about the reliability and productivity of mature aged workers, to break down prejudices against employing older workers.

"A comprehensive community-based employment program is also needed to give these workers the skills, training and confidence that they need to survive in a tough labour market," Senator Cherry said. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also revealed last week that the official unemployment rate rises from 5.8% to a massive 15.9% when a wider definition of unemployment (i.e. available for work within four weeks rather than immediately) is used.

Jill Manning Office of the Leader of the Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett Phone: (02) 6277 3645