Posts Tagged “employ older workers”

9:06 am 15 June 2016

Max Towle, Employment Reporter – @maxbentleytowle

New Zealand has been ranked near the top of an international report judging how well it treats the growing number of people over-65 who are still working.

New Zealand is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers, said the report.New Zealand is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers, said the report.

A report by the financial company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows nearly 40 percent of New Zealanders are working until they are 70 and that number is rising.

Its report, ranking 34 OECD countries, puts New Zealand in second place in how it treats older workers, only behind Iceland.

In its own words, the country is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers.

As well as more over-65’s working, PwC said New Zealand had a great record for allowing them flexible conditions, and a relatively low gender pay gap.

It was also about their skills being better appreciated, said a partner for the company, Scott Mitchell.

“They are as useful, if not more, especially when they can be in a flexible working environment,” he said.

“Just because you become an aged worker, the mere fact you’ve got someone who’s been there and done that and has maturity – they can be fantastic coaches.”

The government’s statistics show of all over-65’s, one in five is working – that is expected to rise to one in three in 20 year’s time.

There are several reasons why older people keep working, said a co-director of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre at Auckland University, Susan St John.

“Among them of course is the problem of outliving savings and needing to provide extra because there’s a greater awareness that New Zealand’s Super scheme, while generous, isn’t enough for many people,” she said.

People should be judged on what they are able to do, rather than a ticking clock, said former All Blacks doctor and current chief medical officer for Sovereign, John Mayhew.

“There’s no evidence that work is bad for us, it may be better in fact. As long as someone is physically and mentally able to do the job they want to do and they enjoy it then carry on,” he said.

“For most of us there’s no magical cut-off at 65, I think we should push the retirement age up.”

PwC’s report also calls for the government to look at the retirement age, but Ms St John said just because more older people are working, it did not mean it should go up.

“That is a real can of worms because many people are not capable of staying in the workforce and raising the age puts them on a work benefit, for example,” she said.

The government has consistently batted away calls to lift the age, saying 65 is affordable.

Ms St John said it was worth noting statistics do not take into account older people who spend much of their time in unpaid caregiving roles – that could mean simply looking after grandchildren.


May 14, 2016

Viktoria Rother made a terrible miscalculation. When she took voluntary redundancy aged 45, the former customs officer felt certain that as an educated, single, child-free professional she would soon find full-time work.

But her lack of luck in the job market left her in despair. Finally a recruiter laid out the brutal truth. “She informed me frankly that most employers weren’t interested in people my age or older; they preferred to employ those under 40.”

“I lost hope of ever finding paid work again,” Ms Rother said.

Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan.
Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan. Photo: Rohan Thompson
After hearing countless stories like this, Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan is “enraged at the unfairness” that perfectly capable people in their 50s or younger are constantly being told they are “a bit long in the tooth for this job”.

​”It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another 40 years without paid employment,” said Ms Ryan.

Ongoing, systemic age and disability workforce discrimination is not only a massive drain on the economy but has devastating consequences for individuals, a national inquiry led by Ms Ryan has concluded.

Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Roughly a quarter of the population are 55 and over but they make up only 16 per cent of the total workforce. Although 83.2 per cent of people without a disability participate in the workforce, only 53.4 per cent of people with a disability do.

Employment rates of people over 55 drop off sharply, to only 12.7 per cent for people over 65. But in the past decade, the number of people over 45 who say they won’t retire before 70 has risen dramatically, from 8 per cent to 23 per cent, the ABS reports. “They expect to, they want to, but will they find jobs?” Ms Ryan said.

Governments want people to work for longer to ease the looming pressure on the budget as the proportion of the population over 65 swells. It is feared the age pension and health systems, which older people will rely on for longer than ever as longevity increases, will become too expensive for the shrinking workforce to fund through taxes.

The inquiry found Australian labour force participation rates for older people and people with disability remain “far too low” and lag behind comparable OECD countries. Even with a 7 per cent increase in the mature age labour force participation rate we would lag behind New Zealand, but the boost to GDP in 2022 would be about 1.4 per cent, or $25 billion, says the Grattan Institute.

Every public service job in Australia should have flexible working conditions and targets for employing older workers and people with disabilities, the inquiry recommends. Private employers should have to publicly report progress on hiring older workers and those with disabilities, with the role of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to be expanded to monitor diversity. A national action plan should be developed and federal cabinet should include a minister for longevity, it recommends.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the report was a “very, very important body of work” and a “milestone in public policy making”. The recommendations would be considered, Senator Brandis said at the launch earlier this month.

The inquiry heard the same excuses for age and disability discrimination as were once commonly used to justify gender discrimination, “with no basis of evidence for the stereotype”, Ms Ryan said. These include that older people or people with disabilities are “unreliable, too distracted by family responsibilities, can’t handle high-stress jobs or won’t be able to work at a high enough pace”.

“I believe that we need the same sort of cultural change in relation to older people and people with disability as we had to push for and finally achieve in relation to women,” said Ms Ryan, who pioneered the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 as minister assisting the prime minister on the status of women in the Hawke Labor government.

“It is not a niche problem. It is a major demographic fact and we need to deal with it as much as we did with women, but we don’t want it to take as long.”

After he turned 64, educator and consultant Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past, he told the inquiry. As a recruiter, “I instinctively avoided hiring applicants who were older and more experienced than me – because of a concern that such people might be ‘difficult to handle’.”

“I now think that, out of self-interest, I didn’t want my own standing to be jeopardised by the presence of a much older, more experienced subordinate.” Over-qualified, too senior, or over-experienced for the position were the usual excuses made to unsuccessful older applicants. “I could also pretend that they would ‘waste the training investment’ in view of their purportedly shorter future working lives,” Mr Dunbar said.

Programs and subsidies to encourage employers to hire older or disabled workers are ineffective, the inquiry found. The lack of opportunities to gain new skills for mid-life workers from declining industries like manufacturing condemns many capable and experienced workers to “years of poverty on benefits”.

Ms Ryan said older workers are also vulnerable to rip-offs under the rorting that has plagued the vocational education and training industry. “We need to make sure that … training is linked to a skill shortage in the area that they can realistically be trained to fill, not just some private provider who is enrolling them in something with a fancy name,” she said.

The report does not argue for special treatment for older workers or people with disabilities. The best person for the job should always get it, Ms Ryan said.

Viktoria Rother, now 53, is now adding to her stack of degrees with a master’s of environmental management and sustainability online through the University of Newcastle. Employers “think that those of us who are over 40, our brains are atrophied and we can’t possibly learn anything new. I find it insulting,” she says. But she feels optimistic about her chances in a growing field. It is a “completely different and new career path for me because I think the government wants me to work until I am 103”, she says.

Source: SMH

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Arnoud De Meyer

Studies at German carmakers show that with the right tools and environment, older workers get more productive. It is time to redesign jobs in Singapore, from cleaning to food and beverage and services.
A few months ago, I saw a series of advertisements on buses promoting the recruitment of older workers. The direct message was nice and clear: Older workers can bring a wealth of experience and can therefore be useful to an organisation. But I felt, perhaps wrongly, that there was a subliminal stereotype in these advertisements suggesting that older workers were not productive any more, and that such lowering in productivity had to be compensated by the sometimes- elusive concept of experience.

If that were true, we here in Singapore would be up for unpleasant surprises. While the Government rightly encourages us to enhance productivity in all sectors of the economy, we also know we have a rapidly ageing society. We have fewer babies than in the past and we live longer.

As a consequence, the number of Singapore citizens and permanent residents in the usual working age range of 20 to 64 peaked last year, and the number of citizens above 65 will rise from 440,000 last year to 900,000 by 2030. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be only 2.1 working-age residents for every person above 65, as opposed to more than double that today.

What can we do about it? One option is significant growth in immigration. I don’t think that is on the cards. Another option is that we all work longer. I am not sure I like that option personally, but from observing what is happening in other countries with a rapidly ageing population, such as Britain, Germany and Japan, I see that everywhere the real retirement age is rising. In fact, with the exception of Japan, many societies are turning to both options: increasing immigration and working longer.


That is the bad news. Now for the good news.

The assumption that productivity declines with age is factually wrong. Research in many industrialised countries shows clearly that productivity does not diminish with age. We have to be careful with some of these studies because they measure productivity of younger and older people who are active in the workforce. One can thus argue that those who left the workforce are the ones who had lost out in productivity. So a more precise formulation is that there is no loss of productivity for ageing workers who stay in the workforce.


There is, of course, quite some difference in productivity between members of that older age group, but that is also true for younger workers. To put it scientifically, the variance within each age group is significantly larger than the variance between age groups.

Let me refer to one seminal piece of research (by Axel Boersch-Supan and Matthias Weiss) on an assembly line of the German car manufacturer Mercedes. Such car assembly lines have a fixed pace. So productivity is not measured by speeding up the lines, but by measuring the mistakes that are made, leading to defective cars that need to be reworked, thus reducing the output per day. Measured this way, the productivity per worker at Mercedes went up till the age of 65 – it does not mean it could not go up beyond 65. There were simply no workers older than 65.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.
I can already see some of us thinking this does not make sense. We all know that when we age we have growing problems with our eyesight or hearing, we are less able to lift heavy loads and our cardiorespiratory capabilities decline. And yes, I personally also seem to forget a bit more as I grow older. And we may learn less rapidly than a 20-something.

It may be true that what is called fluid intelligence, or your capability to learn abstract concepts and reasoning, may diminish with age.

But your crystallised intelligence, which is based on knowledge acquisition and experience, rises and compensates significantly for that loss of fluid intelligence.

The loss of sensory capabilities (seeing and hearing) can be easily compensated by a better working environment. A bit more light in the workplace can help. Our inability to lift heavy weights can be compensated by having a few more tools.

Once again, I would like to refer to a 10-year-old study at that other German car manufacturer, BMW.

They understood in the early 2000s that with the rapidly rising age of their workforce, they would have to redesign their factories. So they created an assembly line with a group of workers with an average age of 47. The factory’s management raised the issue, some managers ran an experiment, but it was the workers themselves who came up with the solutions.

With a mere €40,000 investment in an assembly line, they were able to raise productivity by 7 per cent in one year, equalling the assembly lines staffed by younger workers. Absenteeism was originally at 7 per cent but, after a few years, it dropped to 2 per cent.

What was the trick? A few simple equipment changes, accompanied by changes in work practices. There were new chairs (based on the design for the barber shop chair), magnifying lenses, adjustable worktables, large-handled gripping tools, larger typeface on the computer screens, and wooden floors which are better for our joints. In addition, a physiotherapist developed stretching and strength exercises to make older people more flexible at the start of the working day.

Why do I make this point? First, because I am convinced that Singapore needs to develop an environment that will enable ageing people to remain productive. We need it to remain competitive.

Second, if we do it well we may develop innovative processes and workshop designs that can be sold to other ageing countries. Germany has started with this. Japan is heavily investing in robotisation to support elderly people.

What can we do?

Robotisation might help. But in many cases I am convinced it is gimmicky, and nice to show on a late-night TV show. The reality is much simpler and cheaper. I am convinced that enhancing productivity for the elderly can be stimulated in five ways.


First, let’s get over the stereotypes that older people are wiser but less productive. With the right tools and in the right environment, they can be both wiser and more productive. Perhaps we also should change our vocabulary. Let’s not talk about ageing. It sounds negative. Let’s talk about longevity.

Second, let’s research the tools, the environment and the education needed to keep our long-living workforce productive. The BMW case is just one example.

How do we reorganise cleaning, F&B, construction, bus driving, computerised services, libraries, entertainment, you name it, so that it becomes easier for long-living workers to be productive?

For example, at many of our institutions, cleaning is performed by elderly people. But the tools are designed for young people.

I notice at my own organisation that some of the “uncles” and “aunties” have quite cleverly reorganised their tools to make it easier for them to do their cleaning jobs. Perhaps we should listen more to them.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.

Third, we need to invest in more flexible working arrangements. Older people may be interested in different lifestyles and work arrangements. They may want to work only part-time because they want to take care of their grandchildren. Or they may wake up earlier and would love to work from 6am till 3pm. And some older women may want to catch up on their career to make up for the time they had lost when they were taking care of their children. They may well want to work more. I am not dictating the right way of organising work. What is needed are more flexible arrangements that fit longer-living employees.

Fourth, let’s get rid of the notion that older people cannot learn, or the idea that it is not a good investment to have them learn new skills. They are as capable as anybody else to learn new approaches. They may have a different learning style. Some research in the Nordic countries indicated that retired people were as eager and capable as adolescents to learn how to navigate the Internet and its social networks. They just learnt it in a different way. The value of education and training is not reduced by age.

And, finally, we should not underestimate that elderly people know better the needs and challenges of elderly customers. When a senior citizen goes to a bank, does he or she really want to be advised about investments by a youngish relationship manager? Frankly, I personally prefer to be served by an experienced older cabin crew than by the youthful stewards and stewardesses with scant experience in life that we see so often in the advertisements of our airlines.

My point is that we should design services and products appropriate for long-living people and delivered by long-living people. Let’s stop talking about ageing. Instead, let’s focus on living longer and working longer and well. Longevity and productivity can go hand in hand.

The writer is president of Singapore Management University.

May 7, 2016
Paul Gilder Herald Sun

Events have combined to cast retiree nest eggs into the path of a financial tornado.
‘TOTO, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

With those words Dorothy Gale, the heroine of cinema classic The Wizard of Oz, bravely takes her first steps into a foreign land full of uncertainty and risk.

Retirees and those soon to leave the workforce must be feeling a little like Dorothy this week after a run of events that have combined to cast their nest eggs into the path of a financial tornado.

The big banks set the scene as Westpac on Monday and ANZ a day later unveiled first-half earnings slumps and in ANZ’s case, a dividend cut, citing tough trading conditions and sending a shiver up the spine of yield-seeking investors.

It was the Reserve Bank’s turn on Tuesday, stealing the spotlight from Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison’s Budget by cutting the cash rate to an all-time low of 1.75 per cent in the war against deflation — leaving term deposit holders feeling even more unloved.

Perhaps the biggest whammy was in the Budget itself, with news of yet another overhaul to superannuation in the name of fairness and long-term fiscal repair.

Among changes set to be introduced from July next year, the annual cap on concessional — or pre-tax — contributions will be wound back from $30,000 to $25,000 for under-50s and $35,000 for over-50s.

For those earning $250,000 to $300,000, the tax rate on concessional contributions has been doubled to 30 per cent.

And the total a person can transfer into their pension fund — which attracts less tax than a super accumulation fund — will be capped at $1.6 million. It is estimated that those amendments will put an additional $2.9 billion into the government’s coffers over the next four years.

Combined, the revelations are turning the walk down the yellow brick road to a prosperous retirement into an arduous slog.

Remember, this is the generation who have been told that to be comfortable in their golden years, a couple aged around 65 will need to have about $59,200 a year to spend, while a single will need $43,100.

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, a couple at 65 will need $640,000 to aspire to those annual sums, while a single will need $545,000.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show men aged 55-64 have amassed on average $320,000 and women $180,000, while a household — which takes in the impact of single-occupant houses — has $400,000 in savings.

At those rates, many will be struggling to maintain that “comfortable” lifestyle well before their 75th birthdays, even with the benefits of the Age Pension.

Chant West head of research Ian Fryer says the gap is partly down to the relative immaturity of the compulsory super system, which has only been mandatory since 1992.

“It took a number of years for employer contributions to get to 9.5 per cent, so a lot of people nearing retirement aren’t going to get to those retirement savings levels,” Mr Fryer says.

While few are quibbling over the clamps intentionally being applied to the wealthy, economists are worried that more tinkering with super will further knock confidence in the system.

“The changes … still leave superannuation as highly tax preferred compared to alternatives,” AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver says.

“The concern though is that it will adversely affect the supply of patient long-term saving available to help grow the Australian economy.”

Respondents to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute’s consumer poll on the “wisest place for savings” has superannuation trailing the pack, favoured by less than 5 per cent.

Most favoured bank deposits, or paying down debt, while property was preferred by about one in five and shares about one in 10.

But the biggest long-term impact to wealth accumulation could yet come from interest rates.

The RBA also finds itself in a scary new world after official figures revealed Australia had joined the ranks of developed nations to suffer a bout of price deflation.

Announcing the RBA had taken the knife to the official interest rate this week, governor Glenn Stevens reasoned that “unexpectedly low” inflation — headline inflation was minus 0.5 per cent in the three months to March — was not to be dismissed lightly.

The hope is that in cutting rates, consumers will divert their mortgage savings back into the economy, and that extra demand will spur businesses to lift prices and reignite inflation.

But there is collateral damage, particularly for the reliable over-50s saver.

On hearing news of the rate cut, former Victorian premier and beyondblue founder Jeff Kennett labelled it a “disaster” for retirees.

“Low interest rates might be great news for homebuyers but for fixed income, more experienced Australians (who are) retired it is a disaster,” he tweeted.

Figures from, an online financial product broker, show the best term deposits on the market are offering about 3.3 per cent for one year, or about $6600 on a $200,000 deposit.

The big four banks are even stingier: rates of 2.3 per cent to 3.1 per cent are typical for anything up to five years.

“A lot of people are asking us where to park their savings when rates are low,” says RateCity money editor Sally Tindall.

“Online savings accounts are not offering a lot more than inflation, so the answer is often putting your money into a mortgage, which can be more productive in the long run.”

Mr Fryer says low returns have forced many people to take on more risk at a time when they have little recourse to recoup any heavy losses. For many, that means investing in Australian shares, and the big banks this week proved how stressful that path can be.

Lower rates, Mr Fryer says, can provide a sugar hit to shares but can also be a signal of difficult economic times to come.

Another obvious area of investment is property, after the government this week made good on its vow to leave negative gearing alone.

But Mr Fryer says would-be investors need to tread with caution.

“I’d be concerned if people were making investment decisions based on the current cash rate. They need to see if they can cope with higher repayments down the track.”

It seems that like Dorothy, anyone wanting to don a pair of ruby slippers in retirement might just need to do a little more legwork.

Australians approaching retirement age are braced for declining living standards under a system in which the rich have done better from superannuation rules, leaving the rest with insufficient savings or languishing on inadequate age pensions, a survey has found.

Many now back “root and branch” reform to address the problem, including calculating the family home in the age pension asset test and reducing the generous tax concessions for superannuation contributions by the well-off.

As the Turnbull government prepares to unveil its first budget, a survey of over 4000 Australians aged between 50 and 70 found this critical group of voters is profoundly nervous about the future, unconvinced about financial security and more inclined to reform than previously thought.

The online survey, conducted by the YourLifeChoices website, received 4004 responses to its 21-point questionnaire, conducted in the shadow of the politically pivotal 2016 federal budget to be tabled on May 3.

The results suggest the nation’s 5.5 million Baby Boomers are not the fixed conservative bloc that is sometimes assumed, and that worsening financial circumstances mean many would back policy options previously ruled out.

Among the findings is that 60 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that a family home, if valued above $2.5 million, should not be excluded from the pension eligibility assets test.

“Perhaps the most surprising result in the survey, and contrary to expectation, is that the family home is no longer considered sacrosanct when it comes to the age pension assets test,” said publisher Kaye Fallick.

There is also support for changes to superannuation rules, suggesting super is not the political kryptonite it had been, as Boomers worry about the system’s financial sustainability and the need to protect fairness.

While many want a moratorium on changes, two-thirds of respondents believe reform of the superannuation system is required to wind back generous tax concessions, because they provide a disproportionate advantage to high income earners who are able to channel significant amounts of pre-tax income into their super accounts at a greatly discounted rate – thus costing the budget billions of dollars.

“Older Australians are not averse to change nor overly protective of all retirement assets and tax advantages, as much current ‘generational warfare’ hype might lead us to believe,” Ms Fallick said.

Sixty-seven per cent described changing the concessional rules on the accumulation phase of superannuation as something with which they either agreed or strongly agreed. Just 15 per cent classified the issue as not very important to them or not important at all.

The survey result suggests Labor is on to a winner with these voters with its policy of doubling from 15 per cent to 30 per cent the rate at which super contributions are taxed for those earning more than $250,000 a year. Currently the 30 per cent rate kicks in on contributions for those earning above $300,000.

Fairfax Media has reported that the government was considering going further than Labor in its pre-election budget by reducing the threshhold for the 30 per cent to $180,000, but that plan looks to have been dumped in favour of the $250,000 threshhold.

Underpinning the survey is a strong concern about the adequacy of the retirement system generally, with 82 per cent agreeing or strongly agreeing that the “root and branch” review is necessary.

By contrast, last year’s budget decision to continue pushing out the pension eligibility age from a projected 67 in 2023 to 70 by 2030 attracted strong opposition at 68 per cent.

But while Labor was onside with older voters on more heavily taxing super contributions for the well-off, its proposal to tax super earnings at a concessional rate for earnings above $75,000 in a year was not favoured – despite its negligible impact on all but the wealthiest superannuants.

Sixty-eight per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with taxing earnings at all.

With negative gearing set to be centre stage in the election contest, respondents were locked at 41-41 on Labor’s policy of limiting the tax concession to apply solely to newly constructed homes.

Source: The Age

A new report has found that older Australians and casual workers of all ages have a higher likelihood of being laid-off, and struggling to find new jobs.

The report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) also found that a significant group face a decline in job quality, often moving from permanent to casual jobs. One in three people earn less than what they used to.

Most of the laid-off workers have limited access to re-employment support and only a moderate number receive “early and more intensive employment services through structural adjustment programmes”.

The report released recommendations for the federal government to help vulnerable workers find good jobs quickly by:

  • moving away from the current sectoral approach to special assistance programs in case of mass layoffs towards an approach covering all sectors of the economy, with the intensity of intervention varying according to the workers’ needs
  • introducing pilot schemes in a few areas to test the delivery by job active providers of intensive employment services adapted to the needs of laid-off workers
  • expanding the training component in programs for laid-off workers and making use of skills assessment and individual training counselling to target training more effectively
  • strengthening employers’ responsibilities for workers they are laying off by instituting a longer notice period in case of mass layoff, and ensuring that notification to Centrelink is enforced so that authorities can respond more quickly
  • considering the introduction of a mechanism to publicly support firms putting workers on short hours, for example through publicly-funded training places or temporary subsidies to prevent excessive dismissals during cyclical downturns.

The document also reported that 2.3 per cent of Australian workers with at least one year of employment are laid-off each year because of downsizing or closures.

However, it noted that due to Australia’s flexible labour market, 70 per cent of unemployed workers found a new job within a year, and 80 per cent within two years.

Source:  Pro Bono Australia

April 15, 2016

A government pilot program is revealing Australia has a strong workforce of mature workers keen to remain productive.   Skills Checkpoint Pilot offers workers aged between 45 and 54 years a professional careers “health check” to evaluate their skills and experience in order to create a personalised career map of their future prospects.

Participants are also invited to attend online and offline workshops on training opportunities, the future jobs market, and recruitment trends for those looking at transitioning into new careers.

The whole process takes about six weeks, after which participants receive their career map defining ways to address skills gaps, listing suitable occupations and employment opportunities to suit their skillsets and information on training pathways and government programs relevant to their circumstances.

Pilot participant “Theresa,” who shoulders caring responsibilities for her disabled son, says her career map clarified the directions she could realistically pursue in the context of her circumstances.

“The pilot helped me realise I have a lot of transferrable skills applicable to local industries where flexible work practices are more commonplace than where I am working right now,” Teresa says.

“I am also better informed about government programs and assistance I am eligible for if I want to pursue further training – I feel more certain about my future options.”

So far, the Skills Checkpoint initiative is attracting a lot of interest from a workforce of mature Australians keen to remain productive, who are driven to generate an income to secure a comfortable retirement.

The average Australian healthy lifestyle expectancy is one of the highest in the world, due to improvements in health care and other technologies, while the age pension age for both men and women will hit 67 by mid-2023.

Meanwhile, the number of working people aged 15 to 64 in proportion to each of those aged 65 and over has dropped from 7.3 people in 1975 to around 4.5 people today.

It’s clearly an economic imperative that we do all we can to encourage mature Australians to contribute their experience and skill to the workforce.

This pilot recognises that many older people need advice on how best to do that, and I hope we can assist many people to realise their dreams.

To participate call 1300 073 612 or visit

Source:  Australian Ageing Agenda

Anne Shaw* and her husband love going on cruises, finding ocean travel to be the perfect holiday. But there’s another benefit for the grandmother of four: “It’s a way of escaping without having to say no to requests to look after grandchildren,” she admits.

Shaw isn’t alone: as much as they adore their grandkids, many of today’s nannas and grandmas feel that looking after grandchildren encroaches on their lives or is physically exhausting. Yet most of these women aren’t telling their grown-up offspring how they really feel.

Looking after the grandchildren can be a fraught issue; a complex web spun from conflicting emotions including love, guilt, joy, fear and obligation.

And the reality of doing it regularly – that it’s hardly all bliss and contentment – is such a taboo subject that all the grandmothers interviewed for this article asked not to have their identities revealed.

Baby boomer grandmothers know their Gen X sons and daughters are under significant financial strain. Dual-income families, demanding jobs, expensive childcare and the high cost of living mean mums and dads are turning to their own parents to help out with their kids while they work.

Grandparents provide childcare for almost one-third of children of working parents, according to 2015 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“In Australia, grandparents are the largest source of informal childcare after parents … Many households could not function without the unpaid input of grandparents,” write Barbara Pocock, Natalie Skinner and Philippa Williams in their 2012 book, Time Bomb: Work, Rest and Play in Australia Today.

This is no secret. What’s less well known is how these grandparents feel about and respond to requests for care – especially grandmothers, who usually take the lead in the grandparenting arena (research shows that even when grandfathers and grandmothers provide care together, grandmothers are more likely to take on routine or repetitive tasks such as bathing and feeding).

Janet Gibson*, a grandmother of 10, is frank: “When my first grandchildren were born, it was a pleasure to look after them. It never felt stressful.” But that was more than 20 years ago. Now in her 70s and suffering from arthritis, caring for the grandchildren is very different.

“I love the children but I’m physically unable to do what I used to do,” Gibson says, referring to the fact that it’s painful for her to pick up her baby granddaughter. Despite the difficulty, Gibson and her husband regularly look after the baby so their daughter can work. They’ve never told their daughter the extent of Gibson’s health issues.

Why not?

“Because I feel it would be unfair,” Gibson sighs, referring to the fact that she was very involved in caring for her older grandchildren and wants to treat her children equally.

This desire to help each of their children equally was mentioned by other grandmothers. Although understandable, it complicates the grandparenting experience, especially in large families, because more grandkids means more time and energy from grandparents who are only getting older.

Anne Shaw agrees – over the years her feelings towards grandparenting have changed. “I was so looking forward to becoming a grandparent,” she says. Before her first grandchild was born, Shaw reduced her paid employment from full-time to four days a week.

“I couldn’t give my kids money, so looking after my granddaughter was my way of helping out,” she says.
But 11 years and four grandchildren later, Shaw notices that she gets tired more easily and doesn’t have the patience that she used to. Still, she never says no to requests to look after her grandchildren because she “absolutely loves” seeing them. “I don’t admit it when I’m tired,” she says. “I just get on with it and do what needs to be done.” Now retired, this grandmother says she can simply catch up on sleep if she needs to after the kids leave.

But not all grandparents have this luxury: many juggle care of grandchildren with paid work, leaving them with little downtime.

The number of older women in the Australian workforce has significantly increased over the past few decades.
In the early 1980s, just 10 per cent of Australian women aged 60 to 64 were in paid employment, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies. By 2009-2010, their presence had quadrupled to 41 per cent. (There has also been a small increase in the workforce participation of women aged 65 and over during that same period, from 3 to 7 per cent.)

Jill Westbrook*, in her mid-60s, is a working grandmother of two. For her, the issue of caring for grandchildren is more about how it restricts her income than the physical exhaustion. “I tend to say no to extra paid work because the grandchildren come first, but I’d like to say yes,” she says.

The combination of paid work and care also means Westbrook doesn’t get many free evenings. She wishes she had more time so she could play bridge, go to the theatre or the movies.

So why doesn’t she just say no when she is asked to look after her grandkids?

“Because I love my children and don’t want to see their lives any more difficult,” says Westbrook. “Too much financial pressure can strain a marriage, and if I can ease that I’m very happy. I’m divorced and want my children to be with their partners forever.”

Helen Andersen* is in her early 60s and regularly cares for three of her grandchildren. Of all the women I spoke to, Andersen is the only one who has initiated honest conversations with her children about her grandparenting role.

“I come home from a day looking after the kids and every bone in my body aches,” she says. “I don’t have the energy I used to, and I don’t know if the younger generation appreciates that fatigue.”

Since having that conversation, Andersen’s daughter treats her mother more gently and is more considerate. And Andersen is certain that’s a good thing. “When you’re honest, it’s such a relief,” she says. She believes it’s vital for grandmothers to let their kids know they’re not superwomen, instead of always insisting they’re fine and happy to look after grandchildren.

Andersen also acknowledges how difficult it is to refuse requests for grandchildcare: “You always push yourself because it’s your child,” she says. “The hardest thing to do is say no because we’re programmed to help and love and care and to give support over resting our aching bodies.”

Myra Hamilton, a research fellow with the social policy research centre at the University of NSW, says: “Because grandchildcare is tied up with love, family history, culture and shared experience, setting boundaries around care becomes difficult.”

Dr Briony Horsfall, a sociologist at Swinburne University, agrees there are great expectations on Australian women to be constant sources of care-giving. “These grandmothers are nurturing multiple, intergenerational relationships. It’s quite subversive to say no because there’s a risk of being seen as a ‘bad’ grandmother and a ‘bad’ mother [to adult children].”

Another complicating factor, particularly for paternal grandmothers, is the fear of decreased access to grandchildren if they decline care, especially if it’s a daughter-in-law making the request. Sometimes, it’s easier to play it safe and just lie – as does one grandmother who pretends she is feeling unwell, or says she’s going out.

Of course, it’s not all bad: caring for grandchildren can provide enormous joy and satisfaction. When I asked each grandmother what their ideal care scenario would be, not one elected to opt out of caring for their grandchildren. Rather, grandmother utopia involves fewer care hours; or to spend more time having fun with grandchildren, for example taking them to the park or the beach; or to have extra paid help to do the more physically demanding jobs, such as cleaning and other domestic duties.

A 2015 study, Grandparent Childcare and Labour Market Participation in Australia, commissioned by National Seniors Australia, found there is a tipping point after which providing care becomes less enjoyable: grandparents who provide 13 or more hours of care a week are less likely to enjoy caring for their grandchildren, and more likely to feel the effects on their work and retirement decisions.

But often it’s not so easy for grandparents to reduce their care hours, says Myra Hamilton, a co-author of the report. “The fewer options that adult children have in terms of work flexibility, childcare options and financial security, the harder it is for grandparents to say no to requests for grandchildcare.”

A survey commissioned by the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency found that 58 per cent of grandparents have had to sacrifice their own lifestyle and recreation, and 30 per cent have had to alter their work arrangements in order to care for grandchildren, while 23 per cent said they’d like to look after their grandchildren less often than they do.

Becoming a grandparent is supposed to be the gold medal for surviving the hardships of parenting; the ultimate love affair. But the truth is more nuanced.

“My friends secretly comment about the mind-numbing boredom of grandchildcare,” says Andersen.

“You are dealing with children with brains the sizes of peas. Lots of us held high-powered jobs, were successful businesswomen, so however much you love those sweet babies … how many games of Eye Spy can you play without wanting to rush back to your fabulous novel and a quiet cup of coffee?

“We feel wanted, satisfied with a job well done, loved and delighted in the love we get back,” she says. “But it comes with issues no one discusses and that men never even think about.” •

*Names have been changed.

  • In 2013, the average age of becoming a grandparent was 58-60; in 1953, it was 54-56.
  • In 2014, 837,000 Australian children were cared for by their grandparents in a typical week.
  • In 2014, more than 97 per cent of grandchildcare was unpaid.
    Sources: ABS, McCrindle Research

Australia’s unemployment rate fell from 6 to 5.8 per cent in February because a large number of people gave up looking for work.

Key points

  • Unemployment falls from 6 to 5.8 per cent
  • Only 300 jobs added in February: +15,900 full-time, -15,600 part-time
  • Australian dollar hits 76 US cents on the data

The Bureau of Statistics estimated that only 300 jobs were added in February, but unemployment still fell because the participation rate dropped.

Seasonally adjusted figures point to a 0.2-percentage-point fall in the proportion of the adult population in work or actively looking for it.

The fall in participation saw the key monthly hours worked figure go backwards slightly, while the employment-to-population ratio also eased to 61.1 per cent.

In more positive news, the quarterly figures show a slight improvement in underemployment.

The ABS said the underutilisation rate (which combines those who are unemployed with those who are working less hours than they would like) has edged 0.1 of a percentage point lower to 14.2 per cent.

The underutilisation figures continue to show a deep divide between men and women, with the female underutilisation rate at 16.4 per cent compared to the male rate of 12.3 per cent.

‘Positive number’ but doubts remain over ABS data

Overall, the jobs figures were seen as a positive, as the creation of 15,900 full-time positions offset a 15,600-strong fall in part-time jobs.

It’s too soon to conclude that the recent stagnation in employment is genuine and is not just a statistical fallacy.

Paul Dales, Capital Economics

The typical economist forecast in a survey by Bloomberg was for 13,500 jobs to have been created and unemployment to remain steady at 6 per cent.

The Commonwealth Bank’s chief economist Michael Blythe said a steady trend unemployment rate at 5.8 per cent painted the most accurate picture of the jobs market.

“Net, net I would say it is a positive number in terms of the economic outlook. It’s still pretty much the case the unemployment rate is trending lower at the moment,” he told Reuters.

“That’s a pretty powerful signal about the economy and is certainly a message for the Reserve Bank as well.”

JP Morgan’s Tom Kennedy said the dip in participation also appeared to be an aberration.

“The participation rate has been moving higher for some time so for it to flick lower today is a little bit odd,” he told Reuters.

“We aren’t putting too much emphasis on that and we do think we’ll see a recovery in the participation rate going forward.”

Capital Economics analyst Paul Dales agreed that the latest figures are probably statistical noise, but he also argued that the strong growth at the end of last year was a bit overstated.

“It’s too soon to conclude that the recent stagnation in employment is genuine and is not just a statistical fallacy. But a weak performance in March would set off the alarm bells,” he wrote in a note on the data.

The Australian dollar jumped to 76 US cents by 12:28pm (AEDT) on the back of the results.

SA unemployment blows back out, Qld jobless rate falls

After having fallen dramatically over the past few months, South Australia’s unemployment rate surged dramatically in February.

It jumped from 6.8 per cent in January to 7.7 per cent last month, and is the highest jobless rate the state has recorded since August last year.

The rise was partly due to a 0.3-percentage-point increase in the state’s participation rate.

On the flip side, Queensland witnessed a dramatic drop in unemployment from 6.4 to 5.6 per cent, but its participation rate plummeted from 66.3 to 65.4 per cent.

New South Wales continues to have the best unemployment figures of the states, with unemployment easing from 5.5 to 5.3 per cent on the back of a significant fall in participation.

Western Australia and Victoria are stuck around 6 per cent unemployment, with Tasmania still close to 7 per cent.

The two territories continue to outperform, with both recording jobless rates below 5 per cent.

It is important to note that the seasonally adjusted state jobs figures are extremely volatile due to the smaller sample sizes involved in the ABS survey, particularly for the smaller states.