Boomers’ exit ‘key issue’ for workforce

AUSTRALIA is about to start a big “baby bust”, according to a new study, where baby boomers increasingly quit the workforce over the next 15 years, removing their skills and their big contribution to the national tax base.

The study, by KPMG and Ipsos, said the Australian economy had benefited for 45 years from baby boomers moving into and remaining in the workforce, including contributing to the spending and investment spree that preceded the global financial crisis.

“But from 2011 onwards, the demographic underpinning to the workforce and to the tax base provided by the boomers slowly unravels,” the study said.

“The imminent removal of key skills from the workforce is shaping as a key issue for the coming decade.”

As an example, the study pointed out that one-third of Australia’s nurse population was likely to retire in the next five years, despite the inadequate pipeline of young nurses.

Many of them have inadequate superannuation, given the compulsory system only began in 1992.

The study predicted that, despite the strains on the tax base as this generation looks for greater support in retirement, the boomers are also likely to force acceptance of older workers continuing in employment, at least part-time.

Even this won’t be sufficient to offset the loss of skills, with the research showing a gulf in attitudes between business leaders and the general population towards immigration and the need for a “big Australia”.

Demographer and study co-author Bernard Salt said business held real concerns about the supply of labour and skills without adequate immigration and population growth.

“Business leaders are far more concerned than consumers about the detrimental effects of the current discussion about asylum-seekers and immigrants,” he said.

Both parties in the August 21 election campaign backed away from any support for high immigration levels, exacerbated by the public antagonism to asylum-seekers and widespread anger that services could not cope.

The study said while many consumers acknowledged the need for more skilled migrants, there were still significant levels of anxiety and hostility about immigration in general.


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