By my 40s, I hope to be very comfortably established in my career, ensconced in a warm blanket of experience that makes me more valuable than ever to my employer.
But here’s a terrifying truth: age discrimination can start affecting you from 45, according to Diversity Council Australia.
Stereotypes about being too rigid, slow or technologically unsavvy abound and, depending on the type of work you do, that can mean work starts to dry up, or you find yourself unable to bounce back after redundancy.
So if you’re finding yourself edged out at work, you’re not alone.
Executive to unemployed
Tim Hessell was 48 when a company restructure made his role as an HR executive redundant. It took him two years to find another full-time position, despite having 25 years of experience under his belt.
That’s when things really started to unravel.
Finding a permanent position proved impossible, so he took on a series of contract positions.
“While that started out positively, over the years that whittled away until at some stage, in one year, I went for 60 different roles and was unsuccessful in all of them,” Tim says.
“[I had gone] from what once would be regarded as a successful career as an executive, to then being unemployable for whatever reason.”
No-one ever told Tim he was too old to hire. Recruiters were more likely to say, “‘You’re over qualified’ or ‘You’re not the right fit’ or ‘We think it’s better we give this role to someone who can grow through it, rather than yourself’.”
It was a demoralising experience, leaving him anguished and confused. He wondered whether there was something wrong with him.
“Then I looked at other colleagues in similar industries who were [having a] similar sort of experience.” He realised wider factors were at play.
He decided to tackle the problem from another angle: going back to university to do a PhD on the causes of ageism in the workplace.
But not everyone has to take such drastic measures. Here are some first steps to consider, as well as advice on activating Plan B.
Laws around age discrimination
The first thing to know is that age discrimination in Australia is “absolutely illegal”, says Robert Tickner, co-chair of the EveryAge Counts campaign and former Labor Party cabinet minister.
“Every state and territory, plus the national parliament, has outlawed age discrimination,” he says.
“So if people do think they’ve got some clear evidence of discrimination, they may wish to talk to the Human Rights Commission.”
The Commission’s Australia-wide information line is 1300 656 419.
However, complaints can be hard to test, says Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson.
She shares examples of two cases that were successful:
A 56-year-old who stopped getting casual shifts as a kitchen hand. He was told a younger person was replacing him to cope with the busy Christmas period. He received approximately $1,800 in lieu of four weeks’ notice.
A 75-year-old who was falsely accused of breaching work safety rules and had his hours cut, after the HR manager found out his age. He was awarded around $4,500.
With all of us bound to age (if we’re lucky), Dr Patterson has this warning for employers: “The climate you set will be the climate you inherit.”
CV and skills check
While the onus is very much on employers to change their attitudes towards older workers, there are a few things you can do to bias-proof your CV.
“You don’t have to put in your date of birth, and you don’t have to put your entire employment history [on your CV],” Mr Tickner says.
“You can skilfully craft a resume that highlights your skills rather than all the jobs you’ve had.”
For the jobs you do list, perhaps stick to more recent roles.
If you’ve had the same role for several decades and now find yourself out of work, consider refreshing your skills.
That could mean doing a TAFE course, or online courses — anything “so you project that your skills remain relevant today,” Tim says.
Also think about how you can demonstrate the depth of your knowledge and experience.
“Older workers sometimes take a lot of what they’ve done for granted,” Tim says. “They never realise quite what they know and the insights they can bring to bear.”
So consider how to convey that — “Not in a way that positions you as, ‘Back in the old days, this is how we did it’, but in a way that people say, ‘Oh, I never thought about it that way.'”
Look after yourself
Being unemployed is stressful at any age, but there’s evidence that older workers experience longer periods of unemployment between jobs. Think of Tim’s two-year stint looking for work after he was made redundant the first time.
“The stress of being unemployed, of worrying, can lead to mental health issues and depression and the like,” but keeping fit and active can help you cope, he says.
“You don’t have to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger, or go to the gym seven days a week. Just looking after yourself will be important.”
Mr Tickner also went through a two-year period of searching for work, during which he became “desperately unhappy and lost a lot of self-esteem”.
In addition to regular exercise, he credits the support of close family and friends for keeping him going.
“It’s important people talk to their friends if they’re having tough times. If there’s a need to seek professional help, then do that.” Feeling down is perfectly normal, he adds.
Consider a Plan B
If you’re still struggling, it might be time to think about a backup option — though that may be challenging at first.
“My thoughts being a baby boomer were that life was going to be fairly linear and sequential. You went to school, got a job, worked, then retired. Life teaches you that’s not always the case,” Tim says.
“I’d say, don’t define yourself by the work that you’ve always done. What are the other things that interest you? What are the things that are going to give you some sense of meaning as a person?”
Tim says broadening your sense of identity will help you avoid losing confidence and becoming angry.
“That’s what led me to a PhD.”
There are options for people in manual work too.
“A number of ex-trades people have ended up in retail,” Mr Tickner says.
“For example, there are a lot of older people who work at Bunnings. They have transferable skills gained over a life time in a particular trade or industry, and now they’re using those to help people gain expertise in the shop.”
For anyone reinventing themselves, Mr Tickner has these words of encouragement:
“Take heart and give it a go, because you might be surprised by the richness of life experiences that might unfold for you.”
Coming full circle
Tim sees the irony of being a former HR executive who was edged out of work because of ageist recruiting practises.
Working on his PhD made him realise that he was unwittingly part of the problem he’s now inherited.
“I thought I had been quite innovative [during my time in HR]. What I realised I did was recruited lots of young people, lots of women, lots of people of different ethnic background — but I didn’t recruit many older people.”
Was he ageist himself?
“I was. I didn’t realise it, but I was.”
Part of the problem, he says, is that “sometimes when you’re young, you never realise you’ll get old”.
He’s hopeful his PhD will now put him in a better position to consult organisations on their recruitment strategies.
Are older workers getting a ‘fair go’? No, and that must change, study finds.
New research into the treatment of older workers shows that many mature-age employees report experiencing discrimination in the workforce due to their age, and believe they are not receiving the same opportunities provided to other workers.
The research found there are more instances of older employees being laid off compared to their younger colleagues, while a stigma remains around their competency with technology and openness to change. Older women in non-managerial roles, working part-time or on a casual basis are more likely to report experiences of aged-based discrimination.
The research is part of a joint initiative by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) NSW and Challenger and is aimed at addressing the underemployment of people over 50. Importantly, the research considers the issue from the perspective of both Australian employers and employees.
“Australia’s mature-aged workforce is skilled and able – and older people are healthier than at any other time in history,” said Meagan Lawson, chief executive officer of COTA NSW. “But due to stigma and discrimination, there are fewer employment opportunities for people aged over 50.”
Key takeaways from the research include:
Many employers are unaware of age discrimination in the workforce but are willing to do something about it once it has been identified.
Businesses need support to understand how they are tracking, and the steps they can take to improve employment of mature workers.
Older workers believe a change in attitude by employers would help them financially and emotionally.
There’s a great diversity within mature-aged workers.
Ageing of the workforce is a critical challenge for the economy. In 1976, there were seven working people for every non-working person. In 2016, that had fallen to four to one, and according to the NSW Intergenerational Report, it will be two to one by 2056.
The benefits to individuals and the community go well beyond finance. Workforce participation is linked to better health outcomes and other positive well being indicators. But the research shows many mature age workers feel they don’t get a fair go, with excuses ranging from over-qualification and younger managers feeling threatened, to poor cultural fit and being bad for the corporate image.
“There is significant value to individuals, the community and the economy in supporting older people to work as long as they wish,” said Challenger chief executive officer Richard Howes. “Increasing workforce participation for older Australians will not only help improve overall well being but also contributes to financial security for a better retirement.”
Half the employers surveyed for the research believed they were doing enough to support older workers. While most employers have general workplace bullying, discrimination and equal opportunities polices in place, only a minority had specific policies that covered age discrimination in detail.
“Older workers should be more valued for the expertise, skills and experience they bring to the workplace, and building awareness around the issue of age discrimination with employers and employees of all ages is a key opportunity,” Ms Lawson said.
COTA NSW and Challenger are developing a toolkit to help employers implement age-friendly practices. It includes improved education for managers to address unconscious bias and improve hiring practices, as well as programs to help promote flexible working arrangements and anti-age discrimination policies. The toolkit will be available later in the year and will include initiatives to forge stronger connections between workers of all ages within an organisation and how to better train mature-age jobseekers.
“While not all older workers are the same, some uniform initial steps should be taken to address the issue of age bias,” Ms Lawson said. “There needs to be better education and training, more rigorous internal policies and structures, greater cross pollination among workers, and better access to job opportunities for older workers.”
Youth employment subsidy may cause significant collateral damage.
Older workers are already losing their jobs as a result of the federal government’s JobMaker initiative, according to Ian Yates, chief executive of the Council on the Ageing (COTA).
“We are very worried,” he said. “Already we’ve seen reports of older workers being laid off so they can be replaced with JobMaker workers.”
Mr Yates said COTA, an advocate for the rights of older Australians, had heard from “several” mature-aged workers being given notice as their bosses looked to take advantage of the JobMaker subsidy, introduced during the recent federal budget to counter youth unemployment.
JobMaker aims to create 450,000 jobs for young people, who’ve been four times more likely to lose their jobs or have their hours cut during the coronavirus pandemic. It offers $200 a week for businesses to hire workers under the age of 30, who are currently on JobSeeker, receiving a Youth Allowance or the Parenting Payment for at least 20 hours per week. The subsidy is $100 a week for workers aged 30 to 35. All businesses, except for the major banks, can access the scheme, which will be available for up to a year.
However, the Coalition claim that the subsidy would create 450,000 jobs has been challenged by Treasury, which asserts that just 45,000 “genuinely additional” jobs would be created.
The Guardian reports: “Treasury officials revealed the conservative estimated benefit of the JobMaker hiring credit on Monday, ahead of a snap inquiry likely to spark calls to legislate more safeguards to the program.”
When the subsidy was proposed, ACTU Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said JobMaker had many flaws that “hadn’t been thought through”.
Ms O’Neill was concerned that older workers would be replaced by several younger ones.
“You’ve increased overall headcount and payroll, but replaced older workers with younger ones,” she told The New Daily.
“The employer will get double the wage subsidy if they employ two workers for 20 hours a week than if it was one for 40 hours. There’s no requirement for secure jobs or full-time jobs. They could hire them for a short period and replace them with another worker.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt wanted to see details of the scheme, concerned it might worsen the unemployment crisis. And Labor leader Anthony Albanese was concerned 928,000 jobless people aged over 35 would be disadvantaged.
Mr Yates sought a subsidy for older workers.
“Many mature-aged workers who are out of work due to the pandemic are facing disastrous personal circumstances. The Liquid Assets Waiting Period means they must spend their savings before they can get help: savings they will need in retirement,” Mr Yates told senior.com.au.
“Australia needs urgent action, or we’ll push a huge group, mostly women, into poverty in old age.”
Mr Yates supported the scheme but said mature and older workers were “equally vulnerable”.
He said people aged 18 to 24 and over-55s were most in need, and older people took twice as long to get a job.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that the headcount and payroll of businesses needed to be higher after they hired people via JobMaker. He said this “integrity test” would ensure older workers were not exploited.
However, there is already rampant age discrimination in employment, said Professor Marian Baird, who heads work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney.
Prof. Baird told the ABC that JobMaker provided an incentive for employers to “cherry-pick people of a certain age”.
She feared it could encourage employers to “abandon older people in the labour market”.
“So, you could substitute someone who is 40 with someone who is 22.”
Prof. Baird said it was “a recipe for casualisation” because employers were only required to hire people for an average of 20 hours a week over a quarter to qualify for the subsidy.
“Someone could work 30 or 40 hours a week, none the next,” she said. “There’s no indication jobs have to be permanent or ongoing.”
Professor Andrew Stewart, an employment law specialist at the University of Adelaide, said the scheme would be difficult to police.
Anglicare Australia’s annual Jobs Availability Snapshot found that disadvantaged jobseekers, including older workers, were competing with more people for fewer jobs.
This year, eight jobseekers are competing for each entry-level job. If all jobseekers are included, there are 106 jobseekers for each entry-level job.
There are also 1.63 million under-employed Australians who could also be competing for these jobs.
“If we’re serious about helping people, we need to create jobs that match their skills – instead of forcing them to compete for jobs that just aren’t there,” said Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers
Government’s controversial JobMaker legislation passes, putting older workers at risk.
The Morrison government’s controversial JobMaker legislation has passed the Senate without the amendments designed to add protection for older workers after One Nation backflipped on its decision to block the unamended scheme.
On Tuesday we reported that independent senators Rex Patrick and Pauline Hanson had announced that they wouldn’t support the bill, which opened the door for Labor and the Greens to pass amendments that added in protection for older workers.
The JobMaker hiring credit scheme, which was announced in last month’s Budget, aims to provide employees with a financial incentive to hire younger workers, but experts are concerned that it will lead to businesses firing more mature and experienced staff in a bid to reduce expenses.
The program gives employers $200 a week for employing a jobless person under 30 and $100 for hiring those aged 30 to 35.
In the Senate, Labor proposed amendments that required the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to publish information about the performance of the scheme, create reporting requirements for companies receiving JobMaker credits and state that government must create avenues for whistleblowers and dispute resolution procedures for the program.
The Greens also proposed amendments that would ban companies that have underpaid their staff accessing the scheme and prevent companies sacking staff and claiming the credit.
The amendments were rejected in the House of Representatives and sent back to the Senate, where One Nation supported the legislation passing without amendment.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi accused One Nation of throwing older workers under a bus by passing the legislation without the protection amendments.
“There is nothing in this bill stopping employers from firing their staff or from reducing their hours,” Ms Faruqi said.
“Not only can they fire their staff and reduce their hours but those workers have no avenue to complain or to have a dispute resolution process. That’s what One Nation are voting for.
“They are throwing all workers – young, old or otherwise – under the bus.
“I hope that they will face the consequences of this decision. But, unfortunately, it will be too late for the workers that they have thrown under the bus.”
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts told Parliament the party had changed its mind on the legislation after being presented with new data on unemployment rates between younger and older generations.
“When we get new data, we have the courage and the integrity to change our mind,” Mr Roberts said.
“The Australian unemployment rate for people aged under 35 years is 10.4 per cent.
“The second figure is that the Australian unemployment rate for people older than 35 is 4 per cent. I know damn well that people around Australia who are over 35 years of age will recognise those figures, because they care about younger people, not just themselves.”
Labor senator Katy Gallagher questioned the government’s motivation for not wanting to add protections to its JobMaker hiring credits scheme.
“The fact that the government has refused to accept the amendments and is asking the Senate to not insist on them without an explanation really begs the question: why is the government opposed to amendments that stop employers from being able to sack existing workers?” Ms Gallagher asked.
“There was no engagement, no explanation, no justification for why relatively minor but important amendments could not be agreed to.
“This hiring credit scheme may do some good for young workers, and that is why we have supported the scheme, albeit with concerns. Those concerns go to issues like job security, the fact that the scheme is pretty modest and the fact that government has no answer for what it will do for unemployed workers over the age of 35.”
Do you support the JobMaker hiring credits scheme for younger workers? Do you think there should be protections to ensure older workers are not sacked to hire younger workers at a cheaper rate?
U.S. employers and policymakers can learn from Japan, Germany and Singapore
Credit: Adobe Stock
Have you ever heard the term “super-aged country?” I hadn’t until I read the just-released Gerontological Society of America (GSA) report, Longevity Economics: Leveraging the Advantages of an Aging Society. The term means that more than one in five people in a country is 65 or older. Japan and Germany are super-aged; by 2030, United Kingdom, France and Singapore will be. So will the United States, raising the question: Why aren’t U.S. employers and the U.S. government adapting policies so more Americans 65 and older can keep working if they’re healthy and interested?
Our businesses and policymakers, it turns out, might do well to follow the lead of super-aged Japan and Germany and soon-to-be super-aged Singapore, based on my reading of the report from GSA and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The study about what the GSA calls “this longevity era” was produced by a workgroup chaired by Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
American employers “haven’t done much of anything to reach out to older workers, let alone accommodate their interests and priorities,” Cappelli told me. “People have to work longer because we’re living longer. So how do we accommodate that?”
Below are a few ways the GSA report says Japan, Germany and Singapore have changed their workforce and governmental policies to keep and attract older workers. “The idea in all these places is to get employers to think about the way to deal with human capital needs,” Cappelli says. A word of warning — one way older people are able to keep working in these countries is by accepting pay cuts.
The number of employed people age 65 and older in Japan recently hit a record 8.07 million. They now comprise roughly 12 percent of Japan’s workforce, which is a record there, too. And three-quarters of Japanese people aged 60 to 64 are still working (by contrast, only 60 percent of Americans that age are).
One reason many Japanese workers now remain employed past the country’s traditional retirement age of 60 is that the eligibility age to receive a Social Security-like retirement pension from the government is rising. It’s now 62 and will hit 65 in 2025.
Another reason why more people are working longer in Japan: the Japanese government is now requiring companies to employ their workers through age 65 if they want to keep working. The catch is that the older workers must still “retire” at 60; then they return to work under a “continuous employment” policy at a much lower salary. Japanese salaries at age 61 are about one-fourth less than before the worker turned 60, the GSA report notes.
A public-private partnership called the Silver Center Workshops helps retirees find part-time jobs, too. There’s also a catch here, though: the jobs are low-paying — roughly $400 to $500 a month (in U.S. dollars) and in low-skilled areas like housekeeping, park maintenance and bike repair.
“It’s outplacement for older individuals,” says Cappelli. “In Japan, it’s now less about keeping people working at the same companies longer and more about trying to get them into alternate jobs and to do other kinds of things.”
Germany has also been incentivizing older residents to work longer by pushing back the federal retirement age — it was 65 in 2012 and will be 67 in 2029.
But the country has an intriguing program designed to let people continue working, as well. It’s called “Initiative 50 Plus” and provides training and lifelong learning to older people. Older workers who accept positions with lower salaries get a temporary subsidy for doing so.
“They’re trying to encourage individuals not to retire and to make it attractive to keep working,” says Cappelli.
Singapore has been especially proactive towards older workers, but that’s because the country hasn’t had much choice. While only 7 percent of residents were over 65 in 1999, 20 percent will be that old by 2026. So Singapore’s leaders have developed a 70-item initiative to make the country what they call “a nation for all ages.”
Last year, legislation kicked in that “encourages older workers who want to stay employed to do so,” the GSA report says. In Singapore, employers must generally offer re-employment contracts to eligible employees at age 62 and the contracts must be renewable every year until 67. If a company can’t offer a position to an eligible employee, the report notes, it must transfer the obligation to another employer or offer a one-time assistance payment.
But if your company does want to keep you, “everything from the prior job is off the table,” says Cappelli. “Your prior job is finished, whether you were the CEO or an hourly worker. Your old pay doesn’t matter now. Your new rate of pay reflects your real productivity.”
Singapore is effectively telling its older workers, says Cappelli, “You want to keep working? OK, but you can’t just be the boss because you’re older.” And managers, Cappelli says, are being told to “manage these older workers in a different way and be respectful of their experience, but to hold them accountable.”
How well is it working? “The problem with Singapore is you never know,” says Cappelli. “They could tell you it’s working great and you never know for sure.”
Last month, what’s known as a tripartite standard from Singapore’s Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices began encouraging age-inclusive workplace practices, benefiting employees 60 and older. So far, 160 employers have signed on.
Said Singapore’s Second Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo: “The new standard will support older Singaporeans to work as long as they are willing and able to, in jobs that are safer and smarter in a work environment where they feel valued and where their needs are addressed.”
Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel Human Resources Director New Kheng Tiong, a fan of older workers, just hired Chua Ai Gek, 67, as a bar assistant there. “Mature workers tend to be a bit more loyal and punctual,” he told Channel News Asia.
The United States
The GSA report stopped short of making policy recommendations for the U.S. government or for employers. It did say, however, that Congress should look at the tax law to incentivize older workers to remain employed and that employers should implement “aging-friendly policies.”
The cloud hanging over all this here, of course, is age discrimination by employers. “We’re fighting some headwinds,” says Cappelli. “I don’t know that we’re making a ton of progress.”
He’s right. But that could change if employers and the U.S. government wise up, especially as America becomes super-aged. By 2035, for the first time, there will be more Americans who are 65 and older than ones who are under 18. As the GSA report says: “Demography is not destiny. The way people and countries respond to an aging society will determine the future.”
Here are what the Gerontological Society of America says are the “realities” of an aging society:
Carol Kulik, Opinion, The Advertiser
November 24, 2017
WHEN Australia’s age pension was introduced in 1909, just 4 per cent of the population lived long enough to claim it.
Now, the average Australian is expected to live 15-20 years beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 — and by 2050, nearly a quarter of our population will be aged 65 and over.
Clearly Australia’s ageing workforce is a reality that we cannot afford to ignore. But what can organisations do in order to benefit from this growing demographic?
For older Australians, the key here is choice. On the one hand, they’re physically capable of working longer, so they could stay in the workforce. On the other hand, they’re tempted by retirement so they can travel, spend quality time with family and friends, or pursue a favourite hobby.
Baby Boomers have an unprecedented option to extend their working careers beyond the traditional retirement age, and being the largest — and wealthiest — older generation ever, their motivations for staying in the labour force are dependent on the quality of support they receive from their manager.
So for organisations, the challenge is to adequately deliver just this.
To help you on your way, here are a few strategic tips for attracting, engaging, and retaining older workers in your organisation:
Plan for older workers to be front and centre
Have you reviewed the age profile of your workforce and your customers? Some industries like aged care and financial services rely heavily on older clients and customers but, as the population ages, older Australians will become a fast-growing segment across all industries.
To engage this growing demographic group, you can position your older workers in visible, frontline roles to connect with similar older customers, suppliers and stakeholders.
This sends a strong signal that your organisation values older people, making the business more attractive to both older customers and job applicants.
Listen up — or miss out
How much do you know about the changing needs of your older workers? If you’re to benefit from their experience, you may need to redesign jobs to match the changing physical and psychological needs of an older workforce.
Simple things, like losing the physical components of the job, or increasing their opportunities to engage with other people, can seem like easy adjustments, but unfortunately many older workers have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate such changes.
The consequence is an unhappy older worker, who, tired of being in a job that provides a poor fit, simply “retires”, only to return to the job market a few weeks or months later, with a different organisation.
Just like that, you’ve lost one of your most valuable resources — and when they exit, their skills and experience also go out the door.
Keep an open mind about who does what
Do you assume that interns are young? Do you think that managers should be older than the people they supervise? Traditional ideas about the right age for the right job are quickly becoming outdated, and organisations need to acknowledge this in order to get the most out of the workforce.
In the case of older workers, many are interested in “encore careers” that enable them to pursue opportunities outside their original career choice.
As an employer, you may be able to leverage this by offering older workers opportunities within your organisation, perhaps rotating across roles and units or retraining for different kinds of work.
And remember, keep an eye out for older jobseekers making a “sea change” in occupation or industry — they can bring transferable skills, such as budgeting or project management, and new perspectives to your organisation.
Carol Kulik is professor of human resource management at the University of South Australia
Half of us will live to 100 that’s why senior workers need a gap year to plan for their retirement
HALF the Aussies born today will live to be 100. So it’s time to reassess how we live healthier and work smarter.
HALF the Aussies born today will live to be 100 and it is time to introduce a senior’s gap year where older workers take a year off work to consider their next 20 years says Aged Care minister Ken Wyatt.
Describing 70 as the new 40, Mr Wyatt is warning Australians they will have to prepare for a future in which they will be healthy enough to work or volunteer well into their eighties.
“More than six million of Australians now aged between 50 and 75 are facing an extended life expectancy,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra.
Researchers at the London Business School had calculated that children born today in the US, Canada, Italy or France had a 50 per cent chance of living to at least 104, and 107 if they came from Japan.
“These projections are the real deal. Therefore, we need to seriously refocus our attention on living better,” he said.
More than six million of Australians now aged between 50 and 75 are facing an extended life expectancy.
This new age could bring us fulfilment and freedom but it has to be managed by a gradual move to part time employment, changing careers, volunteer work or a combination of both.
Too many Australians who retired wished later they had stayed on at work and their employers often found it hard to find a replacement worker with their experience and knowledge, he said.
“For all of these reasons, I personally believe we should consider a “seniors gap year”, made available for employees, in the lead up to the traditional retirement age,” he said.
“Like teenagers have done for decades, as they plan their studies and career paths, this “gap year” could allow older people to map out their future, while maintaining job security,” he said.
The question they would consider during this year would be what they do for the next few decades? How will they continue to contribute and harness their knowledge and skills for the benefit of society and the economy?
“Just imagine if, when we reach 60 and we are thinking of retiring, and we are given the opportunity to take 12 months’ leave without pay and go and do the grey nomad travelling, do all the things you wanted to do on your bucket list for 12 months, and then you come back and you say to your employer, I’m back, I’m ready to start working again’ he said.
Mr Wyatt said his idea was not government policy but he spoke of how after he took a redundancy package in his fifties he decided he wanted to re-enter the workforce.
National seniors policy advocate Ian Henschke said it was important for people to consider if they were ready for retirement but “I’m not sure it requires an entire gap year”.
People should experiment with retirement by using their long service leave before they retire to see if they are ready to leave the workforce, he said.
“If you took six months long service leave at half pay that would be sufficient to understand whether playing golf six days a week or doing pottery and art classes was right for you rather than working, he said.
Scott Barklamb, Director of Workplace Relations at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Australia needed creative ideas for a national discussion on retaining more Australians in work, as the Minister has provided today.
“Expanded options for flexibility seem the most productive area to look at, and we should better empower employers and their older employees to work out flexible arrangements that best meet their needs,” he said.
“Just as planning your retirement is important for individuals, succession planning is important for businesses. We would be wary of any provision that introduced greater uncertainty for business or made succession planning even more difficult,” he said.
The minister is also calling for major changes to the way we treat the aged many of whom are lonely and who live in aged care facilities where they receive no visitors at all.
He wants small houses grouped around a central kitchen and living room built to improve housing options for the aged.
“When I talk to people in Aged Care, I find so many who crave simple touch, a hug, the warmth of palms clasped together, or a soothing hand on their shoulder,’ he said.
It was distressing that 40 per cent of people in nursing homes did not receive a single visitor 365 days of the year, he said.
“Our elders should hold a special place in our society — they are not to be sent away or shunned, but remain fundamental to family groups and communities, as wisdom-givers,” Mr Wyatt said.
Older people should be valued for who they are, not just in terms of economics, but for what they have done and continue to do
Mr Wyatt on Wednesday announced a $2.8 million consultation to set out a plan for future investment for My Aged Care, this will be done in close consultation with consumers, service providers and community partners.
The government has recently embarked on a major expansion of home care services that provide help for the elderly in their own homes so they don’t need to move into aged care facilities.
Source: News Corp Australia Network October 25, 2017
Australia is at risk of a pension crisis unless employers stop their “discrimination” against older workers, advocates for regional Australia have warned.
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has warned the Federal Government’s pension bill would rise from $45 billion to $51 billion within three years, unless efforts were made to help more mature workers gain employment, particularly in regional communities.
Chief executive Jack Archer said continued unemployment of people older than 55 would cut economic growth and put a greater strain on public resources.
“We hear that there is a lot of people who would like to work, who would love to stay in the workforce either part-time or full-time even though they’re in their late 50s, 60s and even into their 70s,” he said.
“But we’re not doing a very good job of giving them the training, giving them the incentives around the pension, and working with employers to stop the discrimination around employing older workers.”
Ageing demographic in regional areas
The RAI has today released a report that outlines the economic benefits of hiring older workers, which it said would help accelerate economic growth in regional communities.
These communities are ageing at faster rates than metropolitan areas.
Mr Archer said the ageing regional demographic was partly the result of people shifting away from cities when they retired.
He said Victor Harbour in South Australia, Port Macquarie-Hastings in NSW, and East Gippsland in Victoria all had at least 20 per cent of the population reliant on the aged pension.
“It basically means you’ve got a lot of talent on the bench, a lot of people who could be involved and contributing who are sitting around homes and wishing they were doing something else,” he said.
“The social benefits of [tackling] this [will be] enormous in these regions where the impact is severe now.”
Getting older people into work
The report calls for a variety of approaches to getting more older Australians into work.
“For regions with low participation rates like the Bass Coast in Victoria or the Lockyer Valley in Queensland, the focus will be to increase workforce engagement in general,” the report stated.
“For those with high participation rates but also a high incidence of part-time employment like Augusta-Margaret River WA and Busselton WA, the policy focus will need to be more targeted towards addressing underemployment.”
The report also suggested part-time work could not only keep older people employed for longer, but it could help lure others back into work.
“As Australians approach retirement age, the opportunity for more flexible working arrangements opens up new opportunities for older Australians who want to stay engaged in the workforce, but scale down at the same time,” the report stated.
“For many, the inability to scale down to a part-time role often means having to drop out of the workforce completely.”
No luck after 150 job applications
Wagga Wagga man Peter Sweeney took a voluntary redundancy from the public sector five years ago.
The 66-year-old said when he attempted to return to employment, he was unable to secure an interview, let alone a job.
“Not everybody is ready to lay down and die,” he said.
Mr Sweeney said he applied for at least 150 jobs before he gave up his hunt.
“I had strong analytical skills, excellent communication skills — written and verbal — and investigation skills,” he said.
“I would have said they would have all been very current. I was able to cope with the applications on the internet.
“There is no doubt in my mind that my age was the thing that kept coming up.
Mr Sweeney said he became involved in a men’s shed group, where he discovered other people had been through a similar experience.
He took his superannuation as a pension and was now entitled to receive a partial aged pension.
“People have told me that they don’t like putting older people on because they’re too set in their ways,” he said.
“Their skill levels are out of date, they can’t take instruction from younger people and they’re generally too tired.
“They want young people. They want people they can socialise with, whereas the oldies are interested in different things.
“The ones that do employ seniors do it for that reason — they don’t want to mess around with a lot of people who have got too busy social lives and can’t come to work on Monday.”
Economic benefit from employing older workers
Mr Archer said as the population aged the workforce shrank, and that risked future economic growth.
But he said that could be reversed provided employers embraced an older workforce.
“In some regions we can see an extra $30 to $40 million of annual consumption in the local area as a result of lifting participation of older workers by 2 or 3 per cent,” he said.
“That then flows on to other jobs in the community.
“What that tells us is if you get the right mix of incentives, you can really have a significant impact on local economies.
“[When] those people are earning [an income], their pension bills will either disappear or be much lower and the government will get a benefit from that.”
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.”
Employers should make flexibility the “default position” for how work is performed to increase the workforce participation of older workers and people with disability, Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan says.
Ryan, whose term as Commissioner ends on Wednesday, told a Diversity Council Australia event last week that age and disability discrimination is a “growing problem”, but that turning negative attitudes into positive ones “is not beyond us”.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the issue found that at April 2015 some 27 per cent of people aged over 50 had recently experienced workplace discrimination; and in the previous 12 months, nearly one in 12 Australians with disability reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment.
It also found employers were struggling to find information and support, Ryan said, adding that she was disappointed with employers’ lack of awareness of support services such as JobAccess and the Employee Assistance Fund, which provide organisations with advice and reimbursements for the costs of work-related modifications that help employees with disability.
“Discrimination is costly – it contributes to higher absenteeism, lower productivity, higher staff turnover, and increased recruitment costs, as well as lost business opportunities as a result of abandoning experienced, skilled and corporate knowledge,” she said.
“On the other hand, we also know that organisations that are inclusive and diverse report tangible benefits in terms of productivity, performance and innovation.”
One way to build inclusion and diversity is flexible work, Ryan said, noting that during the inquiry, “virtually every submission and consultation” identified workplace flexibility as an “important element to raise workforce participation”.
“Businesses should seek to normalise flexible work by making flexibility the default position in terms of work location, work hours and job design as far as the role allows,” she said.
In March 2016, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that all public service jobs would be flexible by 2019 on the basis of “if not, why not”, she said by way of example.
Several other best practice examples are included in a guide released at last week’s event. These include Catholic Homes, which allows for flexibility in shift work; and Commonwealth Bank, which has a number of tools to help managers and employees make flexible arrangements work.
PwC report supports flexibility recommendation
Adding to the evidence that flexible work is good for business, PricewaterhouseCoopers last week released
its Golden Age Index – a weighted average of seven indicators that reflect the labour market impact of workers aged over 55 in 34 OECD countries.
The Index shows Australia has improved in the rankings since 2003, moving from 20th place to 16th in 2014. It performs poorly when compared to other Asia-Pacific countries, however, ranking last in the region, and below the US and Canada.
If Australia increased the participation rate of people aged over 55 to match that of Sweden, it could increase its GDP by about 4.7 per cent ($69 billion at 2014 values), according to the Index.
PwC says employers should adopt flexible working policies, such as ‘phased retirement’ or expanded training programs, to support older workers.
“They should also take steps to achieve age diversity, for example through opening up apprenticeship schemes to older workers so that they can capitalise on their experience,” it says.
AccorHotels, for example – which both the PwC report and the AHRC guide refer to as exemplifying best practice – supports older workers by providing them with a work experience and placement program.
The five-day training program involves work health and safety, complaints and feedback, and basic front office services training, and includes two days of on-the-job work experience in their selected department, as well as interviews with the talent and culture team to prepare them for job placement.
Willing to Work – Good practice examples: A resource for employers, AHRC, July 2016