Younger bosses who nag older workers to take redundancies, tell them they're too old to receive training or deny them promotion are forcing thousands into early retirement.
By also refusing to hire older workers they are adding to the nation's ballooning health and welfare costs by pushing otherwise productive people on to the aged or disability support pension.
That's the view of Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan, who will release a report in the coming months arguing age discrimination is costing the economy $10.8 billion each year.
Alongside the Council on the Ageing, she is calling for changes to the Age Discrimination Act to make it easier for over 50s to stay in the workforce longer.
"If older people are retiring in their 50s and early 60s they become a drain on the economy," she said.
"Employers need to recognise the skills of older workers. A lot of young people would benefit as new employees by getting mentoring and training from senior employees."
The majority of age discrimination complaints made to the Human Rights Commission are job related.
Ms Ryan said the Age Discrimination Act is the weakest of the discrimination acts, limiting older people's access to income protection insurance and workers compensation payments.
"If you've got your own business and you want to insure yourself for loss of income, if you can't get income insurance what happens? You lose your business," she said.
"Employers say they don't want those close to 65 to keep working if they are on workers compensation because they can't cover the costs."
More than half of 60 to 64 year olds now participate in the labour force, increasing from one-third in 1991, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show.
Older worker employment and training organisation DOME Association executive director Greg Goudie said over-45s are spending an average of 18 months looking for work.
"Since this organisation started in 1981 we've never seen so many people coming to use for help in finding work," he said.
"Half of these people are not registered with Centrelink - they are seriously looking for work.
"Our sort of organisation shouldn't have to exist but we keep being asked for help."
Tony Pitkin, 67, got a job at the new Masters Home Improvement store in St Marys in Sydney after 51 years as a shopfitter.
The Minchinbury man refused to "just sit around all day" after recovering from knee surgery and said his experience is vital in his role as a tool and hardware specialist.
"We get a lot of questions like what lock to put on a door, or what tool they should use or how they can fix their bed," he said.
"I think because I have a trade behind me I am better able to answer their questions and offer them solutions. Others without the experience wouldn't be able to do that.
"I think being older, we have more knowledge and experience."
Article from the Australian