A STUDY revealing up to one in four Australians older than 50 have experienced age discrimination at work in the past two years should be a "wake-up call" for the entire community.
The Australian Human Rights Commission study released on Thursday was the first to put a figure on the scale of age discrimination in the nation's workplaces.
Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan, who ordered the study, said it was a benchmark against which future efforts to stamp out aged discrimination could be measured.
She said the study further found 80% of those who experienced age discrimination reported "negative impacts", while a huge 58% of those aged over 50 who looked for work were discriminated against because of their age.
While the report quantified anecdotal evidence of older Australians looking for work, National Seniors' chief executive Michael O'Neill said it came as no surprise.
He said it was "no wonder" a third of those discriminated against by prospective employers had subsequently "given up their job search".
Mr O'Neill said almost half of those surveyed in the National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace said they were forced into early retirement and living off their superannuation because they could not find work.
He said given the "enormous role" older Australians would play over coming decades, the study should be treated as a "wake-up call for policy-makers and employers".
"It's time Australian businesses addressed the fact that discrimination prevents us from realising the full potential of our aging workforce," Mr O'Neill said.
The survey comes a fortnight after the commission began a wider inquiry into workplace discrimination against older workers and those with a disability.
Ms Ryan said inquiry would examine the barriers older Australians faced in getting and keeping a job, and the latest report provided evidence to support it.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said the report stated "the bleeding obvious" and age discrimination in Australia was "as reprehensible as racial discrimination".
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