Job boom for baby boomers

EMPLOYERS will need to target older workers over the next decade if they want to survive.

New state government research shows 45- to 54-year-olds are the fastest-growing employee pool, and by 2016 there will be more people in NSW over 65 than under 15.

Next year will be the first time baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – qualify for the age pension.

From 2017, the qualifying pension age will increase every two years so that by 2023 it will be 67.

But Anne-Marie Elias, policy manager for the Council on the Ageing NSW, said the government should base the pension on ability, not age.

”We really need to develop policies that are based on capacities, not age,” Ms Elias said. ”Older people are not a homogenous group.”

Minister for Ageing Peter Primrose organised a discussion with the public sector, unions and corporations to figure out how to attract and retain older people in the workforce. The findings will be used at a conference for the Institute of Public Administration Australia on Wednesday.

To attract this group, Mr Primrose said employers would need to provide flexible hours, training, and roles that were not physically taxing.

”If we don’t increase the participation of older workers, then we predict there will be a 7 per cent decline in the labour market,” Mr Primrose said. ”It is in the interest of the market and employers to think about this.”

But Mr Primrose said the duration of unemployment for older workers was a concern. People aged over 55 are unemployed for an average of 73 weeks but the average for those aged between 24 and 54 is 32 weeks.

St George Bank human resources chief Ross Miller said the company had responded to similar findings by introducing grandparent leave, and allowing employees to work from home. A third of its workforce is over 45.

IBM diversity and workforce manager Belinda Reynolds said the company looked only for the best person for the job but there were clear benefits from hiring older workers.

”They have experience gained through life, problem-solving capacities, which are both really important to our clients,” Ms Reynolds said.

Professor Philip Taylor of Monash University, who has researched the ageing workforce for 20 years, said employers had ”no choice” but to aim recruitment drives at older people. ”They need to factor in that the idea of younger people gathering in droves to start work simply doesn’t exist any more – that is one heck of a motivator.”

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union says its industries will be most affected by an older population because labourers have physically demanding jobs that shorten their working lives.

”By the time they are 60, they are literally falling to bits,” CFMEU representative Dick Whitehead said.

”We have got no problem if a worker wants to continue and they are in good nick but you just cannot force them. Raising the pension age means they will have to work, but they are worn out. For every 50 people you can say there is only one who will get a light duty.”

Steve Costigan, 56, said being retrained to perform a sedentary job was not an option for most labourers. ”I’ve been in the construction game since I was 18. How are you going to put someone like me in an office?”


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