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Seek and you shall find age prejudice

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 3 August 2012

Lets go on a journey together and using the Seek online jobs site wander through the bits and bytes of the virtual employment market and discover how some recruiters and their clients favour prejudice over experience.

Seek has about 70 per cent of Australia’s online job listings. Unfortunately, in my experience, it takes little action to remove ageist or discriminatory recruitment ads.

It states that under its terms and conditions that“You (the advertiser) agree that it is a condition of your use of the Seek Salary Survey and of any other services provided by Seek or through the Site that you will not either through any act…or omission mislead or deceive others.”


But under the Fair Work Act (section 28) ‘Goods, services and facilities’:“It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s age.”

While Seek is not the creator of potential discriminatory content – it is providing a service that disseminates it.

Go the Seek website. Enter the location ‘Sydney’ (as it’s a large market). Make the classification ‘Any Classification’ and enter the keywords: ‘Dynamic, Young, Funky (or Fun).’ Hit the ‘seek’ button.

You will have before you between 30-40 job advertisements posted, in the main, by recruitment agencies. We could have got between 300-400 hits if we had searched just for ‘Young’ and ‘Dynamic’.

The jobs displayed before all have a high tolerance for those applicants who, by self-assessment, display all three characteristics. Note how most of the jobs are in the area of media sales, fashion and IT but they can include advertising and web design.

When I worked for DEEWR in Mature Age Programs, I would spend a Friday afternoon calling these recruiters.


The first call was to remind them about the Age Discrimination Act of 2004 and how advertisements should focus on the skills, competencies and capabilities of the position rather than the applicant’s age.

To a young man and woman (aged between 25-30), they were the nicest, most polite people one could ever hope to talk to. They listened. They took notes. They agreed with everything I said.

So it was with some curiosity that I would call back a week or so later to ask why they had not changed the copy on their online advertisements.

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This is an edited version that appeared recently in Eureka Street.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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