Triple jeopardy and the “lookism” impacting on older South Australian women

Media Release 8th March 2018

International Women's Day presents an overdue obligation to reflect on the position of an increasing number of older women whose ageing is looking very precarious, says leading advocacy group COTA SA.

COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says while some see ageing as a time for discovery and contribution, more and more women are likely to experience poverty, unemployment and homelessness 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 (many of whom are women) experience age discrimination at work, including being overlooked for promotion, missing out on training opportunities and spending twice as long as any other age group out of work - an average of 68 weeks," Ms Mussared said.

"Myths associated with employing older women include higher rates of absenteeism, higher risk of sustaining injury, lower loyalty and lack of work experience - none of which 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."

And women are very disadvantaged when it comes to superannuation. While the compulsory superannuation system will not mature until 2030, Ms Mussared says women will continue to have inadequate levels of superannuation because they are likely to have had lower wages, time out of work and employed part time to meet caring responsibilities.

"Combined with lower levels of home ownership and little access to public housing, ageing is becoming a scary prospect for many women. At its worst, it may bring with it a real possibility of homelessness," Ms Mussared said.

"It's time we lifted the cloak of invisibility off these women who have so far garnered little interest from state or federal government. 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," she said.

To view the full version of the 2018 COTA SA State Election Platform which addresses the issues impacting older South Australians and the proposed recommendations, click here.

COTA SA is an older people's movement run by, for and with older people. COTA SA represents the aspirations, interests and rights of 633,000 older South Australians.

Further information about COTA SA can be found at www.cotasa.org.au.

For all interview requests please contact:

Silvia Knoppien - silvia@communikate.net.au | 0467 043 173
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983

Download a copy of the media release