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COTA

This International Women’s Day, reflect on the difficulty of ageing women in finding jobs

This week's blog article is by COTA SA Jane Mussared and was published on International Women's Day.

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we have an obligation to reflect on the position of a growing number of older women whose ageing is looking very precarious.

While some see ageing as a time for discovery and contribution, more women are experiencing disadvantage as they age, losing out to triple jeopardy in the job market - being female, older and seeking so-called low skilled jobs.

Studies show that around a third of older workers experience age discrimination at work, including being overlooked for promotion, missing training opportunities and spending twice as long as any other age group out of work - an average of 68 weeks. And research shows it's women who are most affected.

There are myths associated with employing older women, including higher rates of absenteeism, higher risk of sustaining injury, lower loyalty and lack of work experience - none of which appear to fit the evidence.

What is much more likely to be happening is what some have called "lookism", a mostly unconscious bias to "youthfulness" in women. Being an older woman is just not "the look" that gets you a job in 2018.

So what does it mean for older women and why should we worry about it?

For all workers, the compulsory superannuation system will not mature until 2030. However, lower wages, time out of work and part time employment to meet caring responsibilities mean that superannuation and other savings are significantly lower for women. Combined with lower levels of home ownership and little access to public housing, ageing is becoming a scary prospect for many.

At its worst, it may bring with it a real possibility of homelessness. It's time we lifted the cloak of invisibility off these women - we all know who they are.

They raised us, shouldered a disproportionate share of responsibility for us as we grew up, and are likely to do it all over again for their own parents. Neither state nor federal governments have shown much interest in them. This group of rock star women has been abandoned by policy makers at every level and on all sides of politics. State and federal governments must work with employers to tackle ageism in the workplace, and implement mid-career checks to support the recruitment and retention of older workers.

We must develop strategies to address homelessness, including through a new housing service, a comprehensive housing strategy for older people and by prioritising age in public housing.

In the meantime this year's celebration of women must pay attention to those older women among us whose ageing looks anything but secure.