Experts say age discrimination is keeping thousand of fully capable Australians out of work, and costing workers through increased welfare needs.

Statistics show sixty-eight per cent of all age discrimination complaints to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in Australia are about employment.

“We lose over $10 billion a year by having people unemployed, who could be employed were it not for age discrimination,” age discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan said.

“It's a national disaster. It's a disaster for them and a disaster for our economy,” she said.

Not only does the discrimination prevent older people from spending their lives the way they wish, it deprives industries of decades of knowledge and experience that its longest-serving members can provide.

Australians are living longer than ever, but prejudices are preventing many from filling their extra years in a productive way. There are 140,000 unemployed Australians aged between 50 and 64 receiving the Newstart allowance from Centrelink.

“Now that's all public outlay. It's a very small amount of money for the unemployed person getting it, but it's a huge outlay for the government,” Ms Ryan said.

“Those people could and should be working and contributing.”