Older workers make up a distressingly large portion of that group: 45% of job seekers 55 and older have been looking for work for six months or longer.
The AARP report examined the job search strategies that led to reemployment for people age 45 to 70 who were unemployed some time during the last five years.
It found big differences in job search strategies between older workers who landed jobs and those who are still not working.
The overall picture is mixed: Among those older workers employed again after a long time out of the workforce, some were earning more, getting better benefits, and working under better conditions. But for many, the jobs were not as good as the ones they had lost: 59% of long-term unemployed older workers made less money, while 15% earned the same and 25% made more.
So, what set the successful job seekers apart? These moves stand out.
Embrace change. Almost two-thirds of reemployed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation and women were more likely to find work in a new field than men. Of course, some of the unemployed didn’t choose to switch occupations. But for others, the change was a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting or even less stressful with fewer hours. Whether it was by choice or design, broadening your job search may pay off.
Go direct. Older reemployed workers were much more likely—48% vs. 37% of those still looking for work—to contact employers directly about jobs instead of just applying to the black hole of online job postings.
Network strategically. Everyone knows that networking is the best way to get a new job but apparently talking to everyone you know may not be the most effective method. While half of those who landed a new job reached out to their network for leads, only 34% of the unemployed used personal contacts at all. But the reemployed were less likely to rely on friends and family to find out about job opportunities, focusing instead on professional contacts.
Move fast. When hit with a job loss, many people use it as a time to take a break or think about what they want to do next. That lost time can cost you. The reemployed were much more likely to have begun their job search immediately or even before their job ended than those who are still unemployed.
A couple other surprising findings about what works and what doesn’t: Conventional advice is that the long-term unemployed need to keep their skills up to date if they are jobless for a while. While that can certainly help, additional training didn’t make much difference between those who landed a job and those who remained out of work.
As for social media: While 56% of the reemployed found job boards a good source of job leads, just 13% said online social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook were effective in helping them get a new job.
Among the most ineffective strategies: Using a job coach, talking with a headhunter, and consulting a professional association.
Scott Morrison to ‘consider seriously’ the alternative proposal following complaints about the plan to cut pension increases laid out in the budget
The Abbott government is considering limiting wealthy retirees’ eligibility to the part-pension as an alternative to its controversial budget policy to cut the rate of pension increases, the social services minister, Scott Morrison, has said.
Morrison signalled the potential backdown after the government faced nearly a year of internal and external criticism for its decision to confine pension increases to the consumer price index from 2017.
Groups including the Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss) have repeatedly argued the original budget measure would erode the value of the pension relative to wages over time, and the government should instead consider tightening eligibility rules for the part-pension.
Morrison said he would “consider seriously” the Acoss proposal because the government was “wedded to the goal” of a sustainable and adequate pension system rather than any particular measure.
The chief executive of Acoss, Cassandra Goldie, said the plan to target the pension to those who most needed it would involve “reducing the current threshold that allows couples with as much as $1.1m in assets on top of the family home to qualify for a part-pension”.
Goldie spelled out her alternative proposals in a statement issued on Wednesday. Acoss proposed reducing the cut-out point for the part-pension for couples to $794,250 in assets besides the family home, saving the government an estimated $1.45bn in 2016-17.
Morrison signalled his openness to the plan. He said he had asked the sector and crossbench senators “if they have better proposals to make our pension sustainable”, and he would “keep on the table measures until there are new measures to put on the table”.
“What I am saying particularly in relation to the pension is that the proposal put forward by Acoss today is something we will consider seriously. I am interested in getting an outcome and a solution here that delivers a sustainable pension for all Australians, not just those today but those in the future,” Morrison said in Adelaide.
“Acoss, by putting this forward today, understands that that is something we have to address. We can’t just stick our head into the sand which is what the Labor party appear to be doing.”
Morrison said the government was aiming to “get to a point where we can be in agreement about the measures that will deliver a sustainable pension”.
“That is what I am wedded to,” he said. “The government is wedded to the goal and our goal is to have a sustainable and adequate pension into the future and it is clear that if you keep just going down the path that Labor is suggesting which is to stick your head in the sand and do nothing then you will run the pension off the edge of a cliff.”
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, refused to say whether he would support the proposed changes to the pension asset test.
“I’m not going to give this government a blank cheque,” Shorten told the ABC on Thursday.
“What I would support is well thought out, detailed policies, which they haven’t put to us. The discussion in this morning’s newspapers is nothing more than Scott Morrison having a thought bubble.”
Shorten said there was still no concrete proposal on the table, but the government appeared to finally be admitting problems with its pre-existing policy to cut pension indexation.
“It is correct that Labor has opposed the government cutting the rate of pension indexation and today for the first time it appears that after nearly a year of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey saying government policies were unfairly being targeted by Labor through a scare campaign, for the first time we see chinks in the armour of the government’s propaganda campaign where they have tried to pretend that somehow what they were doing was good for pensioners.”
At a later media conference, Shorten left the door open to supporting changes to part-pension eligibility, which would spare the government the need to seek crossbench support in the Senate
“Labor has always been up for making sure that we have the fairest possible system, but pensioners of Australia should not have to consider the Abbott government’s budget measures with a gun to their head which is cuts to $80 a week in pension indexation,” he said.
Labor’s families spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said the government “should put carefully considered proposals to the public and then we can all look at them in a proper way”.
The Greens senator Rachel Siewert said her party supported calls for “a broad review of retirement income instead of fragmentary changes to the pension.”
“This review should include looking as the assets test and changes to super concessions,” she said.
The pension indexation changes were announced in the government’s first budget, delivered in May last year, but faced a Senate obstacle.
Morrison has been signalling for some time that he was looking at the pension issue. He recently proposed reviewing the adequacy of the pension every three years in an attempt to win crossbench support for the indexation changes.
Morrison said community and seniors’ groups and the independent senator Nick Xenophon had offered constructive alternatives in what he described as a “coalition of ideas”.
He said the government would “work through these measures in careful detail and seek to cost them fully”.
Joyleen Thomas, 73, works full-time in the aged care sector as an administrator, the oldest worker in the 2000-employee ACH Group. Picture: Kelly BarnesSource: News Corp Australia
JOYLEEN Thomas’s career began at 42, after she spent two decades out of the paid workforce to raise her family.
Now approaching 74, Mrs Thomas has worked from the “bottom of the rung” to become the oldest full-time worker of 2000 employees at aged care provider ACH Group and has no plans to retire.
Part of her job at ACH’s Adelaide headquarters is to evaluate programs to improve the quality of life of aged care residents.
“I have no idea when I will give up work … quite a lot of people I know have left and then come back into the workforce. My husband is an accountant; he works two days a week and he’s older than me,’’ she said.
“It’s my choice. My husband says that I’m healthier and more vibrant than when I was home with my children. What we know today is that people like me may live to 100 — we don’t want to just exist for those years.”
Mrs Thomas said although her husband had experienced ageism when seeking work after an initial retirement at 67, she had felt no pressure to retire from her role.
Although the Intergenerational Report projects Australians over 65 will increase workforce participation this year, reaching 17.3 per cent in 2054-55, finding a job at an advanced age was proving difficult, said Mark Henley, advocacy manager for financial counselling and community support service Uniting Communities.
He said financial pressures were forcing more older people back to work beyond retirement.
“We see more older people wanting and needing work because they can’t afford to retire. Jobs for older people is more the issue we see,’’ he said.
Council on the Ageing South Australian chief executive Jane Mussared said the report’s aim to increase Australians’ longevity and health should be celebrated.
“But we also need to increase the opportunities for older people to stay in and, in many cases, get back into, the workforce,’’ she said.
Although work participation rates are expected to fall by 2.2 per cent to 62.4 per cent by 2055, Ms Mussared said the participation rate of people aged over 55 was climbing slowly climbing.
Assistant Employment Luke Hartsuyker says local employers need to start seeing the value of older workers.
The Federal Government’s Intergenerational Report, released yesterday, found people will need to retire much later in decades ahead due to the ageing population.
Just 13 percent of people aged over 65 are currently working or looking for work.
Older workers bring to their enterprise a wealth of experience
Assistant Employment Minister and Cowper MP, Luke Hartsuyker
Mr Hartsuyker said those numbers are going to have to rise, as people continue to live much longer lives.
The Cowper MP said employers also have a role to play, in placing more trust in older workers.
“I think it’s important that employers actively look for the benefits that older workers can bring,” he said.
“The Government has a role to play in providing incentives, where appropriate – that’s an important step.
“But I think its important that employers take into account that older workers bring to their enterprise a wealth of experience, a lifetime of experience.”
Mr Hartsuyker said the future of the nation’s economy depends on people working much later into their lives.
“That’s an important element, that we engage our older workers in the workforce, keep them in the workforce and keep them contributing, if we’re going to have the sort standard of living that we want for our future.”
It’s well and truly time to start thinking about how to make older workers feel welcome, experts say.
“Let’s get over our shock that older workers are going to be there longer and now ask the question about how can we make that useful and productive for everyone,” University of South Australia human resource management research professor Carol Kulik says.
“I think we really do need to be much more accommodating for older workers.”
The experts have some tips for both older workers and employers.
* FOR MATURE-AGE PEOPLE TRYING TO FIND A JOB:
It’s going to be tough, it’s difficult, but the key thing is to keep at it,” says Greg Goudie, executive director of South Australian employment service DOME (Don’t Overlook Mature Expertise).
“They’ve got so much to offer. They probably don’t know how much they do have to offer,” Kronos Australia and New Zealand managing director Peter Harte says.
He advises learning how to write a resume and remarket yourself.
“You’d be surprised at the great things that person’s done that they haven’t really recorded.”
Mr Goudie says older workers shouldn’t be afraid to knock on doors, as 80 per cent of jobs that are filled are never advertised.
RE-EXAMINE YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE
Mature-age people do have work experience skills, even if it’s stating that you’re able to work in a group with other people.
“A lot of employers hold that in high regard,” Mr Goudie says.
LEARN A DIFFERENT SKILL
Skilled workers have a greater chance of staying in the workforce than unskilled workers, Mr Harte says.
He advises learning a different type of skill and make sure employers know they can be very flexible.
A lot of people who get to 50 and 55 and are out of work for a year can think it’s all too hard and `I’ll just give it up”, Mr Goudie says.
* FOR EMPLOYERS AND THE BROADER COMMUNITY:
GOVERNMENT’S RESTART PROGRAM
The federal government’s restart program – offering a $10,000 incentive to hire and retain job seekers aged 50 and over who’ve been receiving income support – may be counterproductive, Edith Cowan University psychology discipline leader Dr Eyal Gringart says.
“The message this policy sends is that older workers are inferior to younger workers and require special consideration.”
THINK ABOUT THE SIGNALS SENT TO OLDER WORKERS
Organisations don’t signal a very strong openness to older job applicants, Prof Kulik says.
Their websites can have photos of bright, shiny young people and talk about fun and high-energy environments.
“It’s very easy I think for an older job seeker to think `that’s a signal, that’s a code for saying you don’t want somebody like me’. It’s a very discouraging process.”
HELP WORKERS UPSKILL
Mature-age workers in organisations that adopt specific mature-age practices report high levels of engagement, Prof Kulik says.
The practices can be to help older workers upskill, having alternative career paths so an employee can move into phased retirement, take on a new work assignment or mentor junior people.
Organisations haven’t thought much about what kind of flexibility older workers need, Prof Kulik says.
It’s not start times or which days they work. It’s opportunities to take extended leaves of absence if they have to for health reasons or alternatively to travel, while maintaining their job security.
SOME INDUSTRIES NEED TO ACT NOW
Professionals and managers tend to have more flexibility and autonomy, Prof Kulik says.
It’s not as clear what will happen for people with physically demanding jobs such as construction workers, miners and plumbers if flexibility isn’t offered, she says.
“Either we’re going to have to retrain them and do some kind of major career shift that works better or we’re going to have to be a lot more flexible about thinking about how work can be designed.”
Australia’s notoriously labyrinthine $150bn (£75.8bn) welfare system last week underwent a major review, which essentially recommended an overhaul. However the Commonwealth-funded age pension was conspicuously absent. A politically sensitive topic, it was not in the scope set by the conservative Abbott government, despite it being the largest and most expensive part of Australia’s social security.Australians are living and working for longer. By 2013 the number of Australians aged 65 and over had increased by 533,000 from five years previously, and 17% of people aged 45 and older expected to work beyond the age of 70. In 2012-13, more than half of all retired men and a quarter of retired women named the government pension/allowance as their main source of income, a 45% increase on the number who told the Australian Bureau of Statistics they relied on it when they first retired. Superannuation payments (9.5% of a salary contributed by an employer) have been compulsory since 1992.State pensions are available to Australian residents over the age of 65 (67 by 2023) who have lived in Australia for at least 10 years (with some exceptions such as refugee status) and who meet income and asset requirements. In 2011, that translated to 60% of Australians of qualifying age. People who work past the pension age can still receive partial benefits or a lump sum under incentive schemes.Each fortnight pension recipients get a maximum payment of A$776.70 (£392) for singles, or A$585.50 (£296) if you are part of a couple. A payment supplement of up to A$63.50 (£32.13) a fortnight covers a pharmaceutical allowance, on top of Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare benefit scheme, and utilities allowances. Each state and territory also offers cheaper travel and retail discounts to people over 60. Additional services, which are means-tested and partly financed by contributions from a recipient’s pension after a departmental assessment of what is needed, include the Home Care package, and the Home and Community Care package. People over the age of 65 can apply, or from 50 if they are Aboriginal or an Torres Strait Islander. Helen Davidson, Darwin
At the core of the German welfare benefits system is the comprehensive social insurance system into which most workers pay, which includes healthcare provision, unemployment insurance and pension insurance. Once you pay into all these parts of the system, (about 15.5% of your salary for healthcare, 3% for employment insurance, nursing care insurance, 2.2% or 1.95% for those with no children, 18.9% for pension insurance – most of these shared with an employer) you are entitled to a range of benefits, including healthcare for older people. Prescriptions and glasses are covered by that system so don’t have to be applied for separately, and are not classed as benefits.
A person continues to pay into the health insurance system once they are drawing a pension, unless they don’t have the means. Roughly speaking, on retirement, individuals receive half to two-thirds of net income as a pension. About 85% of the workforce is enrolled in the system. There is no legally set minimum or maximum pension.
Roughly one in four Japanese are 65 or over – that proportion is expected to rise to one in three by 2025. Pride that life expectancies for Japanese men and women are among the highest in the world is tempered by concern over how to pay for welfare in the coming decades, when there will be fewer people of working age to foot the bill. In 2012, the full basic pension was ¥786,500 (£4,342) a year, 16% of average earnings of 4.79 million yen (£26,443) a year, according to OECD figures. Everyone aged between 20 and 59 is expected to enrol in the basic national pension scheme, but only those who have paid in for a minimum of 25 years are eligible to draw a pension when they retire at 65. Full-time company employees and their spouses are automatically included in the employees’ pension scheme, which provides additional contributions to the basic state pension, proportional to an individual’s salary. The government estimates that about 85% of Japan’s workforce draw from the employees’ pension scheme. The fuel allowances for low-income residents will be cut by about ¥3bn (£16.2m) in this financial year. People aged 75 or older only need to shoulder 10% of their medical costs unless they have a high income. Everyone else pays 30% of the total cost. Some cities offer reasonably priced annual passes that enable elderly passengers unlimited travel for a year. Justin McCurry and Chie Matsumoto, Tokyo
Unlike Sweden and Finland, in Norway pensions are holding up, and poverty among pensioners is actually falling dramatically, despite rising average wages. The official pension age has been 67 for both men and women since the 1970s, but it is possible to draw a full old-age pension from 62 and continue to work full time, while there is a range of options to draw a partial pension. But 67 remains the age when most people aim to retire – and the age at which people on disability benefits are transfered to pensions. Norwegians can continue to accrue pension entitlement until they are 75. Norway’s pension system is in transition, and currently two versions are in operation as the old one is phased out. The outgoing one is a defined benefit scheme comprised of a flat-rate universal benefit, an earnings-related second tier and a minimum benefit floor of almost 50% of average earnings after tax. It is a strongly progressive, egalitarian system due to the comparatively generous level of minimum protection and a decreasing replacement rate for earnings above the average annual wage. Marginal tax rates on pension income rise rapidly. A worker in Norway with 40 years’ contributions on an average wage can expect to enjoy a pension of about 67% of their previous income after tax. A new system is gradually taking over that consists of a defined contribution scheme, plus a minimum guaranteed pension. The payouts from this scheme are subject to a life expectancy adjustment, implying that old-age benefits for each new cohort of pensioners will be reduced in proportion to increases in longevity compared to 2010. Employment among older people is high in Norway, with more than 70% of people aged between 55 and 64 still working – well above the EU average of around 50%. In Sweden, pensions used to be more generous than in Norway, but the average pension is now just above 50% of wages, and it is expected to dip below that level if life expectancy increases and the retirement age is not postponed. The guaranteed minimum pension is about one-third of the net average wage. Pensioners in Sweden and Norway get discounts on public transport, entry to museums and an income-tested housing allowance is available. Pensioners – like other people in need – can also apply for social assistance to cover one-off payments and special needs. David Crouch, Gothenburg
The legal retirement age in Russia is early by European standards: 60 years for men and 55 for women. There has long been talk of raising the age, but given that male life expectancy is only just above 60, the move would be deeply unpopular. Russia’s finance minister said in a recent interview that the pension age should be increased gradually until it is 63 for both men and women. There is also talk of introducing an income test for pensioners – currently none exists and working pensioners or those receiving money from investments or other sources can still claim their pension. Workers involved in certain categories of hard labour, those who have spent more than 15 years working in Russia’s far north, and mothers of more than five children, are entitled to begin receiving their pensions earlier. A new points-based system is being phased in that will determine how much money pensioners receive based on how many years they worked. Currently, the basic state pension is around 4,000 (£40) roubles per month, but almost all pensioners receive a number of add-ons, and the average pension across the country is around 11,000 roubles (£110) per month, which is a little under one-third of the average salary. Some regions have particular allowances, for instance pensioners who have been registered living in Moscow for more than 10 years have their pensions topped up to at least 12,000 roubles by the Moscow city government.Pensioners also have a number of travel subsidies, discounted medicine, as well as small savings in certain supermarket chains, usually offered on particular days of the week. There is no guarantee of the security of Russia’s pension fund further down the line, and indeed it was recently admitted that 243bn roubles (£2.4bn) had been redirected from the pension fund to pay for costs associated with annexing Crimea. Shaun Walker, Moscow
As the country ages there is no shortage of local, state, national and not-for-profit initiatives that cater to older citizens’ needs. From prevention of elder abuse to ageing awareness to help with nutrition, assistance programmes are a common feature in many communities. Take the “Campus Kitchens Project”, which along with the older persons’ organisation, AARP Foundation announced in 2014 a three-year renewal of its outreach effortsusing student volunteers to combat hunger and isolation among older people. With an estimated 9m older Americans at risk of hunger and the number of hungry people over 50 up by 80% in a decade the initiative harnesses a number of student-run kitchens at colleges across the country to help tackle food insecurity. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, one project, “Coming of age”, under the auspices of a collection of organisations, including the state branch of AARP has trained administrators in methods to revamp “seniors centres” to make them more appealing for older people to spend time in with numerous benefits including reducing social isolation. While there are plenty of examples of inventive community-based initiatives, there are wider challenges not least of which is funding retirement. Exactly what income and benefits an individual receives when they reach 65 depends on a host of factors including which state they live in, whether they continue working past retirement age and in what capacity, the level of private or public sector employment-based pensions and other savings or investments. The Pension Rights Center in Washington DC and the Pension Policy Center report that of the 44.7 million Americans over the age of 65 in 2013, half had a total annual income of less than $20,380 (£13,271) – from all sources. Most US retirees receive income from social security, a federal social insurance programme to which people contribute via direct taxation. In the absence of a national state pension, it is the primary source of income for many and widely regarded as the foundation of retirement income. In 2013, 85% of older Americans received monthly social security benefits. The average annual benefit from social security for retired workers in 2013 was $15,132 (£9,852). According to the Social Security Administration, the national average wage in the same year was $44,888. For three out of five people over 65 who receive social security benefits it accounts for half of their total annual retirement income but it is particularly important for lower income Americans. In 2012 one in four people over the age of 65 received all of their income from social security. According to the Global Age Watch Index 2014 the modest nature of social security payments and the high reliance on it means that the US has a higher incidence of elder poverty than most other countries One of the most valued public services available to older Americans is Medicare, a national health insurance system with almost universal coverage. According to Global Age Watch the programme provides “good access” to medical services and preventative care. However wWhen it comes to access to services for older people with long-term care needs, however, there are many barriers to obtaining affordable, quality provision because most adults don’t have separate insurance coverage for these. Mary O’Hara, Los Angeles
Old age pensions are provided to people above the age of 60 earning below R49,920 (£2,763) if single and R99,840 (£5,527) if married, and whose assets do not exceed R831,600 (£46,041) if single and R1.7 million if married. Beneficiaries must not be maintained or cared for in a state institution, and should not be in receipt of another social grant. An elderly person is typically eligible for a grant of 1,350 rand (£75) per month. Government guidelines state: “It should be noted that social grants for adults are paid on a sliding scale – the more income and applicant has, the less he/she will receive for the grant.” They can turn to extended families and NGOs for help. The services NGOs offer include social support groups, training and education, income generating projects, frail care services, transport to health facilities and luncheon clubs and home based care, according to the Older Person’s Forum. But most of these services are non-existent in rural areas. Nearly three million people were old age pension recipients in 2013/14. There are private companies that offer these benefits to pensioners – such as Specsavers with spectacles and some bus companies regarding travel.South Africa has one of the largest voluntary retirement funding systems in the world (and for the large proportions of people in employment, these arrangements are mandatory conditions of service). There are programmes of support in provincial social department for old age homes.There is broadly free healthcare in public health facilities. Public housing and transport also benefits many elderly people. Those retiring early have their pensions cut by 3.6% for each year, except those forced into early retirement, whose pensions can by cut by a maximum of 10.8%. David Smith, Johannesburg
The state pension is €219-€230 (£159-£167) per week for people under 80 and €240.30 (£175) for over-80s, depending on Older people, like all other Italians, receive free healthcare under the national health system. The services are either delivered free of charge, or patients pay for them and are reimbursed. Other benefits differ from region to region. For example, residents in Rome over the age of 70 are offered free bus and metro passes. Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Rome
The legal retirement age in France now stands at 62 for people born between 1955 and 1973. However a full state pension is only awarded for those who have worked 40-43 years. Those born after 1973 will have to work for 43 years to obtain a full pension at 62. In certain cases, including those who have taken time out for parenting or taking care of a disabled person, it is possible to claim a full pension at the age of 65 (or 67 depending on the date of birth) regardless of how long the individual has worked. For private sector workers, the full pension takes into account the 25 best years worked, with an allowance for inflation, and can total half their monthly salary. Civil servants have a more generous scheme: they can retire on a state pension of 75% of average income, calculated on the basis of their last six months in work (minus bonuses). However under reforms announced last year, civil servants will have to work an extra two years – 43 instead of 41.5 – to receive a full pension, bringing them into line with the work period requirements of the private sector, even though the calculation remains different. For unemployed pensioners, a single person with less than €9,600 (£6,988) per year or a couple with less than €14,904 per year can claim an allowance called the allocation de solidarité aux personnes agés (Aspa), or elderly persons solidarity benefit. In the case of a single person surviving on €7,000 a year, the Aspa allowance would be €2,600 (£1,893) – calculated according to the €9,600 benchmark figure minus the €7,000. A couple with €13,000 would receive €1,904 per year. Anne Penketh, Paris
The state pension is €219-€230 (£159-£167) per week for under-80s and €240.30 (£175) for over-80s, depending on social insurance contributions while working, regardless of any income from private or occupational pensions. Pensioners, like those in receipt of long-term social welfare payments or those who can prove they cannot provide their heating needs during winter, are entitled to a means-tested weekly winter fuel allowance of €20 (£ 14.54) per household. Those over 70 receive a free TV licence and in some cases are eligible for means-tested free electricity and gas depending on their fiscal circumstances. All pensioners receive free bus and rail travel, not only in the Irish Republic but across the border in Northern Ireland. Henry McDonald, Dublin Source: The Guardian
More companies are recognizing the value of mature workers—and they’re starting to hire them.
Things are finally looking up for older workers.
The latest data show the unemployment rate for those over age 55 stands at just 4.1%, compared with 5.7% for the total population and a steep 18.8% for teens. The ranks of the long-term unemployed, which ballooned during the recession as mature workers lost their jobs, are coming down. Age-discrimination charges have fallen for six consecutive years. And now, as the job market lurches back to life, more companies are wooing the silver set with formal retraining programs.
This is not to say that older workers have it easy. Overall, the long-term unemployment rate remains stubbornly high—31.5%. And even though age-discrimination charges have declined they remain at peak pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, critics note that some corporate re-entry programs are not a great deal, paying little or no salary and distracting workers from seeking full-time gainful employment.
Still, the big picture is one of improving opportunity for workers past age 50. That’s welcome news for many reasons, not least is that those who lose their job past age 58 are at greater health risk and, on average, lose three years of life expectancy. Meanwhile, older workers are a bigger piece of the labor force. Two decades ago, less than a third of people age 55 and over were employed or looking for work. Today, the share is 40%, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
AARP and others have long argued that older workers are reliable, flexible, experienced and possess valuable institutional knowledge. Increasingly, employers seem to want these traits.
This spring, the global bank Barclays will expand its apprenticeship program and begin looking at candidates past age 50. The bank will consider mature workers from unrelated fields, saying the only experience they need is practical experience. The bank says this is no PR stunt; it values older workers who have life experience and can better relate to customers seeking a mortgage or auto loan. With training, the bank believes they would make good, full-time, fairly compensated loan officers.
Already, Barclays has a team of tech-savvy older workers in place to help mature customers with online banking. The new apprenticeship program builds on this effort to capitalize on the life skills of experienced employees.
Others have tiptoed into this space. Goldman Sachs started a “returnship” in the throes of the recession. But the program is only a 10-week retraining exercise, with competitive pay, and highly selective. About 2% of applicants get accepted. It is not designed as a gateway to full-time employment at Goldman, though some older interns end up with job offers at the bank.
The nonprofit Encore.com offers mature workers a one-yearfellowship, typically in a professional capacity at another nonprofit, to help mature workers re-enter the job market. Again, this is a temporary arrangement and pays just $25,000.
But a growing number of organizations—the National Institutes of Health, Stanley Consultants, and Michelin North America, amongmany others—embrace a seasoned workforce and have programs designed to attract and keep workers past 50. Companies with internship programs for older workers include PwC, Regeneron, Harvard Business School, MetLife and McKinsey.
We all understand the population is ageing, and while comments by treasurer Joe Hockey that the first person to live to 150 may have already been born attracted some derision, it should come as no surprise. What is less easy to understand is the curious paradox that, as the workforce ages, the age at which workers are being labelled by organisations and recruiters as “old” is getting younger.
The way that many organisations and those recruiting for organisations construct old age is very different to the way that the authors of the soon-to-be-released Intergenerational Report are likely to construct older age. Our research into the management of age in organisations has found overwhelmingly that employees over the age of 45 self-identify as older. Further, there is a general sense amongst organisational decision makers that if you haven’t “made it” by the age of 40 you aren’t going to “make it” at all.
Declaring that you must have made it by 40 not only ignores the huge potential of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, but it also doesn’t account for the fact that many women and men are ready to hit their stride in their 50s. Relieved of the heavy lifting responsibilities of parenting, they are able to devote themselves to their careers and to their employers.
Some companies have managed to see this potential and are beginning to think creatively about what having an older workforce profile means and how they can leverage its opportunities for increased productivity and innovation.
The advent of the corporation in the early and mid-twentieth century created a prototypical career/life cycle in which youth meant education, adulthood meant work and old age meant retirement. This may have served bureaucratic corporations of the past because it provided order and calculability to those who passed through it.
However, it is an out-dated way of thinking for the modern corporation Much of the discourse in the lead-up to the release of the Intergenerational Report pits old against young. Older people are constructed as an economic burden and younger people as resentful and angry. Yet our research into intergenerational relations in organisations found high levels of respect between younger and older people.
In particular, we found that younger employees greatly respected the knowledge and resilience that their older co-workers brought to their work. As the workforce ages and people stay in work longer, there is a huge opportunity to capitalise on the diversity of ideas, customer segments and product markets that an intergenerational workforce can open up to an organisation. Our research with a global engineering firm showed that the most innovative divisions were the ones in which teams were configured to include a broad range of ages, from new graduates to experienced workers over the age of 65. Respondents reporting learning from one another, and the shared experience flowed both ways. In these teams, the notion of experience wasn’t limited to time served, nor was it seen to expire once people had reached a certain age.
Words do matter. The way that we talk about age in organisations affects both internal employee engagement and also recruitment strategies. Those older and younger than the magic age of 35 to 45 often receive an unintended but powerful message that they have less to contribute to the organisation, and report lower levels of workplace engagement as a result. The language organisations use in their general marketing and specifically in their recruitment can send unintended signals that those over 45 need not apply.
One organisation we worked with wanted to recruit people 45 and older but was having trouble attracting candidates. We could show them that the wording of their job advertisements, “join a vibrant team that works hard and plays hard” and “working space is fresh and funky” was unintentionally signalling that older candidates were not welcome. We encouraged them to highlight aspects of the job that are most important to older workers: recognition of skills, work and life experience; the culture and values of the organisation; and the opportunity to learn new things. This last one is important because it is perhaps the most pervasive yet blatantly false stereotype about ageing. We don’t stop wanting to learn new things as we age.
If the fourth Intergenerational Report is to have the impact that the government, policy makers and employees of all ages are hoping it will, then it is business that needs to take the lead in re-imagining careers, shifting to an age-inclusive culture and establishing the organisational structures whereby employees of all generations can work with, for and alongside one another. Our prosperity and productivity as a nation relies on it.
Could you engage in a conceited deceit that would make others think you were younger? Photo: iStock
You’ll have seen loads of ‘New Year, New You’ stories by now – do this, stop doing that, buy a different shampoo and you’ll look years younger, feel heaps better and be far more attractive.
The most consistent message seems to be that the appearance of youth is the key to success. Even for men, who traditionally have a longer shelf life than women, being young (or at least appearing to be) has enormous cachet.
There are plenty of ways to pass yourself off as a younger feller – new haircuts, plastic surgery, a spot of Botox, maybe getting rid of that unsightly beard. Best of all, try losing a few kilos – chiselled is always better than jowly.
But have you tried this? It’s simple and, while not entirely foolproof, it’s certainly guaranteed to bring results. What is it? Lie about your age.
Until quite recently whenever I mentioned how old I was, the response would be something along the lines of “No, really, you don’t look it”, “My God you are not” etc.
So imagine my surprise when I told someone my real age and their response was … “Oh yeah”.
My face had caught up with my birth certificate, something needed to be done, and the simplest thing was to rewind the clock.
It’s as easy as that. Now if anyone asks my birthday I give my wife’s. And just like that I’m six years younger.
Proof of youth
What’s wrong with that? It’s not like I’m trying to commit identity fraud. I’m not passing myself off as anyone else, just lopping 70 months off my age.
It obviously doesn’t work with banks or insurance companies which, annoyingly, want to know my actual birthday “for security purposes”.
It probably won’t fool HR when the grim reaper of redundancy next passes through the office, either. Everyone else will have no choice but to believe it.
And more people are doing it than you might think. I recently read a story about someone I’d interviewed a few years back and smelt a rat. A quick look back through the clippings file revealed that he, too, had at some point been a bit elastic with his age. And good for him.
My sister admitted to me the other day that she’s been doing it for years and claims her partner’s birthday as her own now and again. She has to remember his star sign and act the part when she does but otherwise, she says, it’s a big success.
Getting away with it
But can you get away with it? Pick a new birth year – and stick to it. Maybe keep the same birthday. You might have to bone up on kids’ TV or pop songs from your purportedly formative years.
I’m luckier – an accent that identifies I’m not from around here gives me a degree of vagueness about these things. Don’t lop too much off, either – ideally, no more than 10 per cent of your real age.
I don’t think it’s a big deal. You are, after all, only as old as you feel. And if you feel like being a bit younger what’s to stop you? Go on, give it a whirl.
Is your age set in stone or do you tell the odd white lie?
(Bloomberg) — Everyone calls her Auntie Helen. At 69, she’s one of the oldest employees at the food court at Raffles Place in Singapore, where office workers grab sandwiches and bowls of soba noodles in the lunchtime rush.
As she cleans and stacks cutlery, Helen Wong might seem to represent the workforce of the city’s past. For a government grappling with an aging population, rising costs and curbs on immigration, her generation is the future.
“Food, transport, medicine are all more expensive now,” said Wong, who works seven hours a day, five days a week in the canteen-like basement, where diners can choose dishes from more than a dozen different vendors. “If I’m healthy and my body allows it, I’d like to work for as long as I’m able.”
In a culture that traditionally expects children to look after elderly parents, Singapore’s employment rate for those between ages 55 and 64 is now 66 percent, among the highest of the 34 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The government has made it mandatory for companies to offer three more years of work to those turning 62, the official retirement age, and plans to extend that to five years by 2017.
“The earlier mindset that having elderly people working indicates a lack of respect by younger people has changed,” said Theresa Devasahayam, editor of “Gender and Ageing: Southeast Asian Perspectives” and a visiting senior research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. “There are fewer children to take care of the elderly.”
The trend in Singapore is a microcosm of what’s happening across much of the developed world as families shrink and people live longer, increasing the strain on government pension systems.
South Korea, with the fastest-aging population in the OECD, told employers to provide retirement plans for staff starting in 2016 after realizing that its state pension fund may go broke by 2060, when its population over 65 is set to triple. Germany and the U.K. plan to raise their retirement ages to 67 from 65, while Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey wants to increase the threshold to 70, the highest in the world.
Singapore has gone a step further. Rather than simply extending the working age, the government is encouraging companies to bring retirees back into the workforce. New registrations by those over 60 at state-run career centers, which help find jobs and retrain workers, almost doubled to 4,799 in 2013, from 2,494 in 2008.
“This is a huge change that has enormous social consequences that we haven’t fully grasped yet,” said Randolph Tan, an associate professor at SIM University in Singapore and a nominated member of parliament. “I’m not sure there’s much benefit to be had from raising the age any further.”
The push to hire older workers follows an attempt to increase the population by as much as 25 percent by 2030 through immigration, a policy that prompted a public backlash as the arrival of migrants pushed up property prices and strained public transport. More than 40 percent of the country’s population was born abroad.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong responded by tightening rules for foreign workers, warning that the cost may be higher taxes over the next two decades. In his New Year statement on Dec. 31, Lee said weak productivity gains for three straight years amid a labor crunch was “disappointing.”
“We need to employ all facets of labor of our very small workforce,” said Wai Ho Leong, a Singapore-based senior economist at Barclays Plc, who was previously head of the trade and industry ministry’s microeconomics unit. “Society is better off when older people are active.”
To help address the labor shortfall, a committee for the employability of older workers unveiled an advertising campaign last year showcasing a 65-year-old lifeguard, a 76-year-old assistant inventory manager and a 60-year-old salmon filleter.
“Tap Into a Wealth of Experience,” exhorted an ad plastered across the side of a bus driving through the central shopping district, featuring a 58-year-old assistant front office manager at Raffles Hotel.
“Given the tight labor market situation, you actually would find many employers coming forward to say they’re willing to hire older workers,” Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor said in parliament in September.
Older workers have found jobs in companies including Hotel Royal Plaza on Scotts, Singapore General Hospital Pte. and ComfortDelGro Corp., which runs the island’s biggest taxi service, according to the committee. The government in 2012 raised the age limit for taxi drivers to 75 from 73.
Singapore offsets part of the costs of hiring elderly workers and companies can tap government funds to redesign jobs and human resource systems for them. Older employees are especially useful for lower-skilled positions that otherwise might not be filled, said Leong at Barclays.
Cleaners, laborers and production and transport operators accounted for the highest numbers of older workers, according to a survey last year by Singapore-based DBS Bank Ltd. A majority of the elderly who were employed drew gross monthly incomes of less than S$1,500 ($1,124), it showed.
“When you see elderly people cleaning the pavement in the middle of the day, you have to wonder if this is sustainable,” Devasahayam said. “It’s not practical to expect them to keep doing it; it’s cruel, there’s a moral dimension to it.”
About one-fifth of Singapore’s employees over 55 work part time, such as Margaret Lee, who retrained after retiring from a childcare center and now works two days a week at a school cafeteria.
“It gives me something useful to do, and some extra money to spend,” said Lee, 62, whose husband is retired. Working part time allows her to help look after her grandchildren while their parents are at work.
By 2020, more than a third of Singapore’s population will be over 50, and by 2050 the nation’s median age will be 54, according to the committee on older workers, which includes representatives from government, business and trade unions.
“It has become essential to hire older workers because of the aging population,” said Angelina Toh, co-founder of AJA Enterprises Pte, which adapts buildings to withstand bomb blasts. She said her company employs them in supervisory and marketing roles where they adjust better than foreign workers. “They’re more mature emotionally, more independent,” Toh said.
Singaporean men live more than 20 years beyond the official retirement age on average and women 25 years, the longest out of the 68 countries in the Global Sunset Index released by Bloomberg Rankings in 2013. While retirees can draw from their pension savings at 55, at least S$155,000 must be kept in the account to provide a steady income stream.
Only one in five Singapore investors is confident their pension accounts will meet their retirement needs, with 47 percent indicating the savings will be insufficient, according to a survey released in August by Toronto-based insurer Manulife Financial Corp.
Auntie Helen says the money from her job in the food court covers her daily expenses and she enjoys chatting with her younger colleagues.
“What else is there for me to do, watch TV?” she said. “I was getting bored at home.”