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Action needed following dramatic increase in older Australians on Newstart

The number of Australians on Newstart aged over 50 has increased dramatically over the past three years, the Australian Greens said today.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on families and community services says that age discrimination is a significant factor blocking older job-seekers as they attempt to re-enter the workforce.

"Government figures show that there has been a 28% increase in the number of Australians aged 50 and over on Newstart since 2010," Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

"January's cuts to parenting payment appear to have played an important role in this increase. Between August 2012 and March 2013 there was a sharp decrease in the number of people aged over 50 receiving parenting payments, coinciding with an increase in the number of people on Newstart. I have no doubt that poor government policy in this area is pushing older Australians closer to poverty.

"This is extremely concerning. Not only do we have more older people living below the poverty line on Newstart, but some of these people are likely to be excluded from the workforce for the rest of their lives, making it increasingly likely that they will retire in poverty.

"Fixing this problem means addressing income support and job services, as well as tackling the growing problem of age discrimination.

"1 in 10 Australian businesses have said that they will not hire anyone over the age of 50, and more than two thirds of complaints the aged commissioner receives are in the area of employment. Clearly the attitudes of employers and the community needs to change.

"With many traditional industries, such as manufacturing, in decline in Australia, there are an increasing number of workers who are being forced out of employment without a strong set of transferable skills to take into the job market.

"When you add age discrimination into the mix, older job seekers are facing multiple and significant barriers to employment that job services are not addressing, leaving them stuck on Newstart for extended periods of time. The average time older job seekers spend on Newstart is 70 weeks, double that of younger job seekers.

"It has been clearly established that Newstart is inadequate and that a $50 increase per week is vital. On top of this, job services need to provide better re-skilling and support for older job seekers. There needs to be investment in specialist services for people with a partial disability, and more flexibility for carers.

"Government must take charge of addressing age discrimination. Employment for older Australians helps ensure people enjoy a fulfilling, independent and dignified life," Senator Siewert concluded.


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