Sydney: A study has found that the popular belief that employers like to hire young people is nowhere true, as many bosses have revealed that they prefer to hire someone older to a younger worker.
The government-funded study by Monash University researchers on 600 big organisations suggests that attitudes towards older workers are changing.
Philip Taylor, the director of research and graduate studies, and his team found that during labour shortages 50 percent of public sector employers put the recruitment of mature workers at the top of their agendas.
About 40 percent of private sector bosses said they too would look to the over-55s.
By contrast, less than a quarter of the employers surveyed - public and private sector - said they would recruit migrant labour to fill workforce gaps.
The research deviates sharply from studies, which have found a strong current of institutionalised ageism in workplaces is responsible for the disproportionately high level of mature-age unemployment.
"I`ve been involved in surveying employer attitudes since 1991 and this is the first time I`ve seen such a willingness to employ older workers," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Professor Taylor as saying.
"We had expected that, on the back of the economic downturn, employers would be less favourable towards older workers. This is a significant and surprising shift," he said.
Professor Taylor said that rather than discrimination, a lack of relevant skills might be keeping mature workers out of a job.
"`There is a tendency for people to say, `it`s my gender, my ethnicity, my age, that`s the problem`. Well, hang on, maybe it`s not," he stated.
Matt Higgins from olderworkers.com.au, an online recruitment company, said some industries were far better than others.
"Retail employers are much better. They realise that a lot of their clientele are mature age and so mature workers will relate to them better," he said.
"But the fact is that Australia is behind much of the developed world when it comes to mature-aged people participating in the workforce. That can`t simply be attributed to a lack of skills," he added.