An Aussie pensioner trying to get a job as his savings diminish and the cost of living forces him into an enduring struggle has applied for and been rejected from up to 200 jobs.
The $640 a week Tom Tesoro gets as a pensioner barely covered his recent rent hike so on top of restricting what he eats and carefully budgeting with his savings he had to move more than 1300 kilometres away to barely scrape by.
Not before the 68-year-old, who worked as an insurance broker for 37 years, tried to get back into the workforce to top up his income, applying for everything from insurance and call centre jobs, to delivering pizza and cleaning.
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After months of trying, Tom got nowhere and rarely even received a response to his applications in a “disturbing trend” older Australians are facing as they try to re-enter the workforce.
“In the meantime my savings [have] depleted and I’m thinking ‘What am I going to do? I’m running out of money and I can’t afford to stay [in my rental]’,” Tom told Yahoo Finance.
“I started to get really depressed and I pulled back on spending to the point where I would sit inside my apartment and do nothing and not even drive the car because of petrol costs.”
Tom believes older Aussies like himself are discriminated against when applying for jobs, particularly at a time when the labour market remains incredibly tight.
“There are too many people applying … [Recruiters] want immediate results and to place somebody into a position as quickly as possible. So they are not going to place a 68-year-old pensioner inside a role,” Tom said.
“I stopped applying because you get more and more depressed when you apply for jobs and even though you’ve got so much experience, you don’t get call centre jobs or dishwashing jobs.”
Older Aussies facing ‘silent prejudice’
Tom is part of the almost two-thirds of older Aussies who cut back on their spending due to cost-of-living pressures.
The financial burden has driven many to consider going back to work and harsh pension rules are set to be changed with the government's plan to permanently increase the amount they can work without having payments reduced.
But, the Work Bonus - set to increase from $7,800 to $11,800 on January 1 if passed - will make little difference if older Australians aren't given the chance to get a job.
National Seniors chief operating officer Chris Grice said ageism was one of the biggest barriers to seniors being able to re-enter the workforce, with 36 per cent of seniors surveyed by the advocacy group reporting this.
“That’s quite disturbing when you consider that the government has flagged in their intergenerational report that the participation of older Australians and older workers is going to be so important to the prosperity of the country going forward,” Grice told Yahoo Finance.
“It’s disappointing to see this misalignment from the point of view of government policy and actually what’s happening on the ground with older folk trying to get jobs.”
Grice said there can be a “silent prejudice” that creeps in and there were often misconceptions around older people’s ability to use technology.
“There are a significant number of older Australians who are online and are connected and do have those skills and could transition nicely into the workforce,” Grice said.
“Older workers have a lot of experience and we think that experience does matter and based on their reliability, dependability and general knowledge, they have so much to offer.”
‘Feel I’ve been thrown away’: Cost-of-living adds further pressure
Tom has been receiving the age pension for the last 12 months and receives $640 a week, which he has to budget carefully on rent, groceries, car loan repayments, insurance and bills.
“I don’t buy the food that I was used to eating, it’s impossible. I’m very, very careful with what I buy because I can’t afford it and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I just cannot believe I’m living in Australia,” Tom said,
Tom said he feels like the government doesn’t care about him or other pensioners, adding: “You feel that you are really, really irrelevant and have basically been thrown away like you are just garbage.”
Tom relocated from Sydney to Adelaide in February this year, after the rent on his Ashfield apartment was increased from $490 to $600 a week.
He is now renting an apartment in Adelaide for $400 a week, however, just this week he was able to temporarily negotiate it down to $270 a week.
Tom said this reduction means he can “breathe a sigh of relief” while he deals with some health issues.
“You look forward to these little wins now and the little, positive things that happen that just keep me going.”