Posts Tagged “jobs for 50 plus”

Older Australians struggling to make ends meet or looking to boost their quality of life are flooding the national jobs market in record numbers but many are finding their skills and experience unwanted by prospective employers.

Special research into the changing nature of the jobs market reveals people over the age of 65 are the single fastest growing age group securing work, up by 11 per cent over the past 12 months alone.

There is a record number of older Australians in the workforce but they have also seen a huge jump in unemployment for those seeking a job
There is a record number of older Australians in the workforce but they have also seen a huge jump in unemployment for those seeking a jobCREDIT:PETER BRAIG

At the same time, the general workforce has lifted by 3 per cent.

There are now a record 610,000 people 65 or older holding down part or full time work.

But despite the large increase, many older Australians are finding it very difficult to get work with a 39 per cent jump in the number of unemployed over 65s looking to tie down a full time job.

Unemployment across 65-year-olds looking for any type of work has jumped by almost 28 per cent. Across the general population it fell by a full percentage point over the past year.

West Australian workplace diversity expert Conrad Liveris said there were a range of issues that were seeing so many older Australians enter the workforce and then struggle to get the job they wanted.

Older Australians are facing a battle to get back into the workforce, says Conrad Liveris.
Older Australians are facing a battle to get back into the workforce, says Conrad Liveris.CREDIT:AFR

He said many were returning to work to maintain a decent quality of life, discovering they did not have enough cash stored away for retirement.

This was a generation that did not have compulsory superannuation through their entire working lives and women in particular are at risk of reaching their mid-60s without a large nest egg to see them through retirement.

Mr Liveris said there was also evidence of early retirees who have discovered they missed work and, with demand relatively strong across the jobs market, have gone back for employment

 “The 65-plus age group is caught between a transition to a new retirement system, a changing labour market and an economy which still values their skills,” he said.
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“And also, they’re not dying. Their health is pretty damn good. They are not going anywhere.”

The law is also keeping them in work longer. Last month the age at which a person can access the pension was increased to 66 from 65.5 years.

Older Australians aren’t just flooding into the workforce. They’re also taking on more than one job.

Separate figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that between 2011-12 and 2016-17 the proportion of people holding down more than one job grew by 14 per cent.

But among those over the age of 60, the increase was 18 per cent.

Source: The Age

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Gold Coast resident Liz Clifford stands outside her garage.
PHOTO

Liz Clifford is selling her house because she cannot keep up with the repayments.

In the space of five years, Liz Clifford has lost her husband to cancer, her office job and now her home.

At the age of 60 she finds herself struggling to get by on Newstart unemployment benefits.

“Very disappointed with life,” she told 7.30.

“It wasn’t his fault that he got sick and died, but after losing my job I don’t have the income now to support living here — rates to pay and bills to pay.

“I don’t like to say it’s destroyed my life, but it’s certainly torn it apart.”

Ms Clifford is part of a worrying trend. The number of people aged 55-64 on Newstart has risen by more than 55,000 in less than five years.

“It’s been very difficult. It makes you feel quite worthless actually, like you’ve got no purpose in life,” she said.

“I feel a little bit insulted and I feel like I’ve been punished for being unemployed.”

She lives on about $50 a day and has been forced to sell her and her late husband’s dream home because she can no longer keep up with repayments.

‘I’ve got a lot to offer’

A Centrelink sign

PHOTO Liz Clifford says she uses her fortnightly Centrelink payment to pay off her credit card.

Newstart has not increased in real terms for more than two decades, and the Federal Government is resisting calls to lift the payment.

“Electricity’s not cheap, water rates and house rates aren’t cheap,” Ms Clifford said.

“I get my Centrelink payment every fortnight and that just goes straight onto my credit card.

“Because I’ve used the redraw facility on [the mortgage], it’s gone up but I’ve tried to be very careful with that.”

Ms Clifford currently works part-time at a Gold Coast boarding kennel but is planning a move to Ipswich to find a cheaper home and full-time office work.

“I think people probably want someone who’s 35, 40 or something like that or maybe even younger.

“I know I’ve got a lot to offer, I’ve got a lot of skills and I’ve worked for a long time and I’m quite computer literate, but I think people just think, ‘She’ll be wanting to retire in a couple of years’ time, so it’s not worth taking her on’.”

More programs needed for mature age workers

Flinders University's Professor John Spoehr is a labour market analyst.

PHOTO Professor John Spoehr says older jobseekers face discrimination and other challenges.

Labour market analyst Professor John Spoehr said the sharp rise in the number of over-55s on Newstart was due to a downturn in traditional industries and a crackdown on eligibility for disability support payments.

“Despite the Australian unemployment rate being relatively low, that masks some other problems in the labour market,” he told 7.30.

“In particular, the difficult circumstances that mature-age workers face, particularly because of the decline in mining and manufacturing.

“People who were skilled in those sectors had to find jobs in very, very different areas of the labour market, predominantly in the services sector where they weren’t well skilled.”

Professor Spoehr said a poor education was hurting some workers in the modern employment landscape.

“Typically, mature-age workers, baby boomers in particular, often require more support than a lot of other workers in the labour market that are struggling,” he said.

“I think there’s a need for an expansion of mature-age employment programs in Australia to support mature age workers through these difficult transitions.”

Living on $40 a day

Phillip Cacciola stands in front of an army jeep.

PHOTO Adelaide resident and Newstart recipient Phillip Cacciola volunteers at a military museum.

Phillip Cacciola, 61, has a lifetime of experience on the factory floor.

“My first job [was] cabinet maker, then I got a job at Holden, biscuit factory, steel fabrication,” he told 7.30.

“Then I got a job at Copperpot pate and dip factory. I was there for 10 years.”

He is now unemployed and believes his reading and writing skills and age are stopping him from finding work.

“Everything is on the computer,” he said.

“When you put a job application in you’ve got to put it in the computer. I can’t do that. Simple as that, I just can’t do that.

“If they put me on a forklift and show me what to do I’d probably pick it up after a while. You’ve got to go through the paperwork and safety and stuff.

“I know the safety stuff but you still got to write it down, that’s my biggest problem.”

Mr Cacciola said he had personally sought out courses to improve his reading and writing skills but wanted the Government to help more in this area as well as increase the Newstart payment.

He lives on about $40 a day.

“Sometimes I get cranky when I hear things about the politicians,” he said.

“They’ve got no problems paying the electric bills, they’ve got no problems paying anything.

“If they want to buy something they can get money out of the bank and buy it. I can’t do that.”

Source:ABC

Older adults offer leadership and experience, yet are often overlooked in the hiring process with HR instead focusing on millennials. That’s according to Ben Eatwell, CMO at Weploy.

Eatwell added that this is often out of a desire to “nurture the next generation of talent”, but also the satisfaction out of having a major impact on these younger minds.

“That’s quite a long way from retirement! We know diversity positively impacts innovation, culture and profits, but often age diversity has less focus.”

Eatwell said there are many advantages to employing older adults, particularly in positions where experience and leadership are needed. However, this doesn’t seem to be translating into more opportunities for older Australians.

“I think this has to do with trying to fit workers into traditional organisational structures – by exploring more agile, networked and outcome-oriented structures it can not only improve diversity but also productivity.”

Eatwell offers a few tips for HR professionals who want to boost the number of older Australians amongst their staff.

The starting point should always be a “thorough assessment of the recruitment process” to identify and mitigate where age discrimination could arise.

“One of the key traits we assess is learning agility – in a nutshell, the ability to pick new ideas up quickly,” he said.

“Research suggests that although you can make small improvements to your learning agility, it is more or less fixed and is not dependent on age.”

Consequently, choosing candidates based on learning agility can help add some objectivity to the hiring process.

From there it’s about developing a culture of lifelong learning. Mature employees have a huge amount of experience to share which can be “leveraged to increase overall productivity and morale”.

“Also I’ve seen reverse mentoring work very well, reducing knowledge gaps with both younger and more mature workers, as well as improving organisational culture.”

So what is lost by having nobody senior around?

“Often it’s the times of crisis when calm is needed, or when team morale is affected by a failed project, that age diverse workforces show critical value,” said Eatwell.

“We do a lot of ‘learning by doing’ and that includes what to do when things do not go according to plan.”

Eatwell added that leadership is a quality that is not tied to age, but the “reassurance of someone who has seen a crisis and worked through it to tell the tale” can be invaluable in making sure the right work gets done in these high-pressure moments.

Sometimes, the only senior person on a project is the boss, and employees are reluctant to confess an error that can lead to disaster if unaddressed, he added.

“Having a senior member of the workforce who can act as that neutral-confidant, and know what to do with the information, has considerable value.”

Employees from diverse ages have different experiences, perceptions and approaches when it comes to things like problem-solving, decision making and task handling, he said.

“They can also use various strategies – starting from the way they think, plan and execute tasks, which can influence operations in a more subtle, but still valuable way.”

Source:hcamag.com

Alan Williams, 62, is attempting to return to the workforce after nine years of unemployment but says his age appears to be a hindrance.

A leading social welfare group will form a coalition to tackle ageism in what is being described as Australia’s biggest campaign to reframe attitudes towards growing older.

The Benevolent Society announced its campaign EveryAGE Counts on Thursday, as it launched a report that revealed concerning findings about growing older.

Executive director of the Benevolent Society Kirsty Nowlan said the research, The Drivers of Ageism, showed a mismatch between perceptions about ageing and reality.

“Views about ageing have a preponderance of negativity,” she said.

“People believe that ageing is a process of inevitable decline. The reality is a lot of the fear about ageing is based on a set of myths.

“Ninety per cent of people over 65 rate their health as excellent. More than 90 per cent of older people live independently, not in a nursing home.

“There is a real dissonance between people’s beliefs and what is actually happening.”

The research found that ageist attitudes were most prevalent around employment with one-third of respondents saying employers should be able to force older workers into reduced roles, one-quarter saying bosses would get better value out of training younger workers than older ones and one-fifth saying younger people should get priority over older people for promotion.

Eighteen per cent of respondents accused people who don’t retire at 65 of stealing jobs from younger people.

Alan Williams, 62, is attempting to return to the workforce after nine years of unemployment. After his wife was diagnosed with dementia, he became her full-time carer. He said that now he is willing to return to the workforce, his age appears to be a hindrance.

“You don’t get told officially but I’ve gone for 22 jobs this month and only got two interviews,” he said. “A few others had strict instructions saying that I currently have to be employed”

Mr Williams had previously been self-employed, running a variety of successful businesses. He said that even applying for jobs at his age can be difficult, with changing technology and changing attitudes.

“I rang a recruiter and said that I was putting in an online application and that I couldn’t find anywhere to put in a cover letter. She said she never reads them anyway.

“Coming back in, technology has changed. I expected that but a lot of the terminology is different too.”

Mr Williams said many of his friends had been in a similar situation and had simply given up on looking for work at their age.

“Friends in my age group, over 50, mostly are just doing volunteering work. They applied for several jobs but just didn’t get any.

“I would like a bit more in my superannuation though. I’m happy to work until I’m 75.

“I’m even starting to look overseas so I can get back into the workforce. At least then I’m actually back in the workforce.”

The research, which involved 1400 participants of varying ages, exposed a number of other negative stereotypes about ageing.

However, it did not state an age at which a person becomes “old”.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents believed mental and physical deterioration were inevitable, 43 per cent associated old age with death and 39 per cent said growing older meant losing independence.

Negative attitudes about the cost associated with ageing also came out in the survey with 19 per cent of respondents saying the amount of money spent on healthcare for the elderly should be rationed.

People aged over 65 who took part in the survey had experienced ageism with 57 per cent saying they’d been told a joke about older people, 38 per cent reporting being patronised and 37 per cent being ignored.

Almost a third of older people said they had been turned down for a job due to their age and 14 per cent said they had been turned down for a promotion.

There were some positive perceptions with 73 per cent of people saying older people had a lot to offer younger people, 65 per cent reporting older people have a strong work ethic and 65 per cent believing older people are responsible.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents agreed that ageism was an important issue.

Australians aged 65 and over comprise about 15 per cent of the population, a proportion set to increase to 23 per cent by 2064, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Dr Nowlan said the campaign would work with governments and the private sector over the next 10 to 15 years to address ageism, a form of discrimination that is likely to affect everyone.

As part of the advocacy, the coalition will lobby for a federal minister to represent older Australians.

“We view this as a long-term campaign of the same scope and scale as the NDIS,” she said.

“This campaign is a 10- to 15-year project aimed at shifting views about growing older.

“We have been given this gift of longer, healthier life and we really ought to make the most of it.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

If you have an elderly parent, there is a worrying new fraud that you must warn them of, after a number of older Aussies were robbed of their life savings by a particularly complex phone-and-bank scam.

The unusually detailed fraud runs like this: a person telephones, claiming to be from an expensive jewellery store, and warns the victim that their credit card is being used to purchase a particularly pricey item.

The ‘jewellery salesperson’ informs tells the victim that they’re concerned their card is being used fraudulently and warns them to call their bank and the police, and even helpfully offers to transfer them to the police so they can report the crime.

However, the phone transfer is to a fake police officer, who then advises the victim that staff within their own Australian bank are involved in the fraud and that they must not alert them that the gig’s up. Instead, the ‘police officer’ advises the victim to transfer the money they have in their Australian bank account to a UK account via the international bank transfer system, in order to ‘protect’ it from the scammers.

The victim is warned to carry out the transfer without mentioning its purpose to bank staff, whether they do so by telephone or in a branch.

But the UK bank accounts are actually controlled by the scammers, who then make off with the money. Once money leaves Australia, it is difficult to retrieve, even if it is paid into a legitimate UK bank account.

The fraudsters are known to be targeting Australians over the age of 75. And although their ploy may sound implausible, Starts at 60 has been told that a number of older people have sent a significant sum overseas in just the past few days.

 

Source: Startsatsixty.com.au

Employers have been encouraged to consider older job candidates, after an 89-year-old man in the UK who claimed he was “dying from boredom” successfully found a job.

The Guardian reports Joe Bartley, an elderly resident of Devon, England, posted a job advert in the local newspaper last month seeking 20 hours of work a week.

“Senior citizen 89 seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!” Bartley wrote.

Read more: One in four older Australians experience age discrimination at work: Study

Just two days after The Guardian’s article, Bartley received two offers of part-time work and has accepted a hospitality role with a local family-run café.

The café’s owner Sarah Martin told the Guardian, “no matter what your age or your background, you deserve a chance”.

“A lot of people who come here don’t just come for coffee, they come for a chat, so Joe is perfect,” Martin told The Guardian.

“How often do you get an 89-year-old person approaching you and saying he wants to work? Usually, we have to go out and find people, and when we get them, sometimes they don’t even want to work.”

Bartley also received a job offer from a bakery in a nearby town, but reportedly turned it down, as he could not easily travel to the business.

Psychologist Eve Ash believes businesses everywhere should consider hiring older workers, saying many of them a “defying expectations”.

“We typically don’t associate working with older people, we typically associate them with sitting around and taking it easy,” Ash says.

“We need to see fewer age judgements. There’s a perception once you hit 70, it’s time on from then on.”

“A whole new workforce”

Ash believes a whole new workforce exists in people over the age of 70, with older workers having “a different type of determination and stamina”. Ash’s own father still works as a land surveyor at the age of 92, with no plans to retire until he hits 100.

Some concessions do need to be made when considering older workers, Ash says, as “40 hour, nine to five jobs” are generally not suitable.

“At any age over 70 there are certain things need to be tested, like driving skills. Older workers are also more suited to shorter weeks and irregular working hours,” Ash says.

“There’s a wide range of things older people could be doing, like customer service or minding things.”

“We need to remove these concepts of age [limiting] employability potential.”

Ash says more evidence is needed to see exactly what sort of jobs are suitable for older workers, but firmly believes they are more likely to “have the time and the care to do things”.

“We might discover they have amazing positive mood characteristics, and in the workplace, this is extremely important,” she says.

It was not reported how many hours Bartley would be working at the café, but on Sundays, he will catch a lift with his boss to work, while catching the bus the rest of the time.

“We think about these things all the time. We are never going to be rich, but we like to give something back, so when we saw the advert there was no question – the minute we saw it we knew we’d give him a job,” Martin told The Guardian.

Source: Startupsmart

June 13, 2016 12:00am
Karen Brooks

Believing we’re all somehow professionally and socially redundant or our ability to adapt seizes once we reach 55 is ridiculous, depressing and offensive.
Reports emerged last week that managers at Gladstone Power Station (GPS) were intending to get rid of workers aged over 55 years because they were too old to meet “challenging changes.”

According to the bosses, keeping them would impact upon productivity. The reasons behind this “early retirement” plan were generally slammed, arousing deep concerns about attitudes towards older workers in broader social and cultural terms.

Whether or not GPS is justified in their decision from a business perspective or some employees are eager to take up the redundancy packages being offered, there’s something both cavalier and indifferent about the announcement. It indicates that age discrimination is not only alive and well, but in this instance, professionally endorsed.

The irony that GPS is singling out older workers for fear they may lack the requisite energy for a power plant appears to have bypassed management.

We know we’re all living longer — according to a Productivity Commission Report on ageing in Australia released in 2014, a female born in 2012 will live, on average, to 94.4 years while a male will live to an average 91.6 years.

The same report discussed the increase in pensionable age from 67 to 70 years, arguing it would boost participation rates in the workforce by 3-10 per cent.

But as columnist Susie O’Brien asks, “what’s the point of making older people work longer if there are no jobs for them to do?”

Indeed.

Before you continue reading: What’s your plan to keep over-55s in the workforce? We’ve had a number of great suggestions at My Big Idea — now share yours.

In the Chandler-McLeod white paper entitled Coming of Age: The Impact of an Ageing Workforce on Australian Business, published in 2013, it was noted that by 2044, 25 per cent of the population would be over 65 years. The importance of “grey workers” (a title so laden with negative connotations, it has to go) to productivity, how they display a strong work ethic and, importantly, possess a “growing financial imperative to do so following the blow to their savings during the GFC,” was also covered.

Age discrimination is alive and well.
Despite this, mature workers (depending which piece of legislation you read, anyone between 45-55 years) are under-represented in the workforce and “over presented in the joblessness rate.”

The paper also revealed something we instinctively know and the decision taken by the bosses at GPS has made overt: age discrimination is rampant.

Talk to many young workers, and they’ll tell you they are also discriminated against.

Damned if you’re young (lack experience; have a sense of entitlement); damned if you’re older (cost more, just cruising till retirement).

The safest place to be in terms of working age seems to be somewhere in the middle — probably around the ages of the GPS powerbrokers.

In other words, stereotypes and clichés about older workers (and younger) abound. Yet, it seems to me that when it comes to work, age shouldn’t really matter. Poor or great attitudes towards work, loyalty, skills-set, don’t fall into age brackets, but are individual. Experience, if the mind is open and willing, is something one accrues at any age.

Assuming older workers cannot embrace “challenging changes” actually beggars belief, considering they’ve probably lived and worked through more change than many of us can ever imagine.

While older workers may cost more to keep on the books, there are enormous benefits to managers in terms of output, skill and knowledge transfer and leadership development.
Yes, older workers do have to take responsibility for their careers, keep their skills relevant, and while many are reluctant to apply for jobs, they do have to pursue opportunities.

Believing we’re all somehow professionally and socially redundant or our ability to adapt seizes once we reach 55 is ridiculous, depressing and offensive.

But it’s no wonder so many view older people that way, particularly if they don’t know many mature folk in their personal or working lives — just look at the majority of representations of ageing in popular culture.

Advertisements for various insurance policies — from cars to funerals (aren’t they jolly!) feature grey-haired, smiling and often stupid older people asking simple questions and looking gloriously satisfied once they understand they can receive discounts or are still eligible for cover, as if they have no concerns but those.

Ageing celebrities, particularly women, are either mostly absent from our screens, have had so much cosmetic tweaking done (looking at you Sly Stallone), they’re parodies of their younger selves, or (with too few exceptions) feature in comic/curmudgeonly/dependent roles.

It’s easy to be glib about those over 55 when the box you tick on various surveys is well above it. We should heed Mark Twain, who wrote, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I mind that older people are being nudged out of the workforce before they’re ready, and think it really matters — not only in policy terms, but social and cultural ones as well.

Time to have a real conversation about this, before we get any older.

Source: News Corp Australia Network

Arnoud De Meyer
PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2016,

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.

MERCEDES AND BMW EXAMPLES

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.

ST ILLUSTRATION : MANNY FRANCISCO

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.

FIVE WAYS TO RAISE PRODUCTIVITY

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.

Wednesday, 04 May 2016

The Australian Human Rights Commission has suggested it should be easier for employees to pursue workplace discrimination claims in court, in a major report on age and disability discrimination.

The 528-page report is the result of a year-long AHRC inquiry into work-related age and disability discrimination, and makes more than 50 recommendations.

The Commission notes that at the time of its April 2015 survey some 27 per cent of people over the age of 50 had recently experienced workplace discrimination; and in the past 12 months, nearly one in 12 Australians with disability (8.6%) reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment.

Pursuing discrimination claims should be less of a burden
The AHRC directs nine recommendations to the Federal Government, including that it consider changing the definition of disability under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to align more closely with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ definition.

The latter definition doesn’t focus on individuals’ limitations but rather on “barriers that society constructs for people with disability”, the Commission says.

The Commission also recommends the Government consider the benefits of introducing into law a positive duty to prevent discrimination.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission told the inquiry: “A positive duty is about being proactive. It means eliminating causes of discrimination that may be part of your systems of work, not just responding to complaints that arise.”

A further recommendation is for the Government to consider removing from discrimination laws the “complicated and contentious” comparator test to establish direct discrimination, which “requires a comparison to be made between the way in which a person with a protected attribute (such as disability or age) is treated and the way in which a person without that attribute would have been treated in circumstances that are materially the same”.

Instead, it could use the ACT Discrimination Act’s detriment test, which more simply assesses whether a person has discriminated against another person by treating or proposing to treat the other person unfavourably because of a protected attribute.

The AHRC recommends other ways in which the Government could remove barriers to employees pursuing discrimination claims in court, including:

allowing representative organisations with a sufficient interest to commence federal court proceedings on behalf of workers, but only by leave of the court;
requiring parties to bear their own costs of federal court proceedings, with courts retaining the discretion to make costs orders when considering financial circumstances and other matters;
amending federal discrimination laws to apply to discrimination based on a combination of protected attributes, rather than each separate attribute; and
consulting with workers, employers and peak bodies on the value of developing employment disability standards.
The Commission also found that while employees have a right to request flexible working arrangements under s65 of the Fair Work Act, their inability to appeal an employer’s decision can prevent older workers and workers with disability from receiving such arrangements.

“Individuals and organisations were concerned that this provision ‘lacks teeth’ because employees have no recourse under the Act where they believe an employer’s refusal was not on ‘reasonable business grounds’,” it says, in recommending a review of the provision.

The AHRC also recommends a review of the fairness of the 21-day time limit for making general protections or unfair dismissal claims.

Employer action steps
“Employers, businesses and the organisations that represent them, have a critical role to play in recruiting, retaining and training older people and people with disability,” the Commission says, outlining numerous steps employers can take to prevent workplace discrimination.

Employers should provide managers and supervisors with support to create and manage diverse teams and flexible workplaces, by helping them with job design, training them in how to manage flexible work arrangements, providing them with information on mental health, and training them in the nature and impact of discrimination, it says.

Organisations should also have a “coherent and systemic organisational business strategy” that:

includes voluntary targets for recruiting and retaining older workers and workers with disability, as well as practical strategies to achieve those targets;
regularly tracks and reports on progress and accountability;
encourages employer-to-employer mentoring and partnerships with specialist organisations;
provides employees with guidance on how to support disability disclosure in a non-discriminatory and non-threatening manner;
makes it easy to adjust workplaces when necessary; and
provides internships/traineeships/apprenticeships and mentoring programs.
The AHRC also recommends employers review their recruitment and retention processes to ensure practices, language and accessibility aren’t discriminatory, and outline their diversity expectations to recruitment agencies.

They should also facilitate older workers’ transition into other industries or jobs by providing timely and relevant skills training and identifying transferable skills, and ensure flexible work practices are “mainstream” by making all jobs and work environments flexible, rather than only on request, it says.

Willing to Work, AHRC, May 2016

Source: HR Daily