A new international workplace survey has found that almost half of all Australians believe they have been discriminated against in applying for a job, with older Australians now facing a great prejudice.
The survey found that 46% of respondents in Australia say they have experienced discrimination of some type, when applying for a job in the last five years.
The Kelly Global Workforce Index sought the views of approximately 70,000 people in 28 countries including almost 2,000 in Australia.
The major sources of discrimination identified by respondents were age, cited by 25%, followed by 9% for each of gender and racial discrimination, and 3% for disability.
Men had a high level of overall discrimination, with 50% facing prejudice when applying for a job, compared with 43% of females.
However, levels of discrimination in Australia are not adverse by global standards, with Australia ranking 16th on the list of 28 countries. Sweden, Thailand and Singapore were the countries that recorded high rates of discrimination in the worldwide study.
Approximately 10% of women and 7% of men reported gender discrimination, when applying for work.
Almost 48% of workers aged 45 or older felt they had been discriminated against on the basis of their age. But 26% of younger workers aged up to 24 also believed they were victims of age discrimination.
The survey found that some industries experienced higher levels of discrimination including IT, engineering and retail.
Only a small fraction of those who felt discriminated against actually took the matter further and many were unhappy with the outcome.
Almost 40% of those surveyed said they also experienced discrimination in their day-to-day working life.
According to Kelly Services, the figures highlight how discrimination is changing over time and age is the new epidemic.
Ageism has overtaken ethnicity and sexism in many areas as a great source of discrimination in employment.
At a time when we face an ageing population, skills shortages, and are being encouraged to stay working for longer, many organisations are putting obstacles in the way of hiring older Australians.
This can be devastating for individuals but it is also means many organisations are shutting off an important source of talent and diversity.
Organisations that do not address these issues directly can do themselves considerable damage and can suffer costs both direct and indirect. The organisations may suffer high staff turnover, absenteeism, poor morale, low productivity, poor reputation, and also the possibility of civil claims and penalties arising from breach of anti-discrimination laws.
It is critical that managers ensure that employees fully understand their rights, and that managers faced with workplace discrimination take immediate steps to remedy the situation. Employees will themselves be looking to see that instances of discrimination are handled decisively, sensitively and effectively.
The survey found that people without university qualifications reported higher rates of discrimination.