We have just seen Australia’s national leadership convening in Canberra to examine the barriers to employment, but failing to even look at the distinctive barriers that exclude older women – a third of Australia’s female population.
It is a matter of great concern that this issue was not addressed, according to the official Outcomes of the Summit. I am referring to women aged between 50 and 66, and not pensioners.
Treasury published the 36 Outcomes of the Summit which included “embedding women’s economic participation and equality as a key economic imperative. We will work towards reducing barriers to employment and advancement so that all Australians benefit from a strong economy.”
The Summit addressed gender parity, parental leave and childcare. It also referred to sexual harassment at work.
But why did it not address one of the key barriers facing women without small children. Women over 50+ locked out of the workforce by the impenetrable barrier of ageism?
The AHRC found that half of employers would not employ women of this age.
Surely that is a significant barrier in the Australian economy to the participation of women in the workforce. So why was it not addressed as such?
In a previous article, I put 4 Questions to PM Albanese and Treasurer Chalmers as to whether the Jobs Summit would address the escalating economic crisis facing women aged 50+. This demographic constitutes the majority of the those are unemployed, the majority on Jobseeker, and those who are on Jobseeker for the longest periods. They also represent the majority of Australians becoming impoverished and homeless.
Danielle Wood CEO of the Grattan Institute referred to older workers in her excellent speech saying “ it is equally important that we tackle both the economic and structural barriers to other groups participating to their fullest, including Australians with disabilities, our First Nations people, and older Australians.”
However, older women face both greater barriers and more discrimination than older men. Ageism combines in a toxic mix with sexism to diminish older women’s value even further and reduce their likelihood of employment.
There are multiple barriers and issues related to the unemployment of women aged 50+. Therefore, why is it that not a single unemployed woman aged 50+ had a voice at the Summit as a representative of this largest cohort of unemployed? It was right and proper for Dylan Alcott to speak regarding disability employment. Why does this right not extend to older women if one of the key objectives of the summit was to boost the participation of women in the workforce and remove the barriers they face?
Older women feel themselves to be invisible socially. They are also being excluded from economic reform and opportunities.
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