Posts Tagged “mature age”

Alex MaritzSwinburne University of Technology

Senior entrepreneurs are Australia’s fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, despite facing significant barriers including ageism and a lack of financial support, according tonew research from the Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology.

The research, funded by National Seniors Australia, studied more than 400 seniors through interviews, focus groups and online surveys. Key findings include:

  • 34% of all young firms in Australia are now led by seniorpreneurs
  • The average age of seniorpreneurs is 57
  • Seniorpreneurs work about five fewer hours than younger entrepreneurs each week and have almost double the industry experience.

The research also found seniorpreneurs invest, on average, A$1.2 million more in their business than younger entrepreneurs, and their firms earn more than twice the profits.

More than a third of seniorpreneurs can be classified as “serial entrepreneurs” who start multiple ventures. The entrepreneurship rate of 8% for the 55-64 age group in Australia is 3 percentage points higher than the average for innovation-driven economies.

Our research also found seniorpreneurs are more capable of starting a business than their younger peers.

Attracted by work life-balance, they have more developed networks, better business experience, superior technical and managerial skills, and a stronger financial position than younger entrepreneurs.

But there are significant barriers in Australia for seniorpreneurs.

Many face a lack of financial support and insufficient information on how to run a business.

The research indicates that ageism barriers include declining health, financial disincentive, age discrimination, the opportunity cost of time, and lack of awareness about entrepreneurship.

There is also insufficient government support for current and aspiring seniorpreneurs, despite the high likelihood that helping people aged 50 and over to participate in business startups could increase workforce participation in Australia and reveal a new generation of

A global trend

Seniorpreneurship is becoming a global phenomenon. In the United States, nearly a quarter of new ventures in 2013 were started by those aged 55 to 64, according to theEwing Marion Kauffman Foundation entrepreneurship think tank. Remarkably, Americans in that age bracket are starting businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties or thirties.

The United Kingdom is also active in seniorpreneurship. Several policy initiatives are lifting its entrepreneurship activity and helping older people create their job. The UK’s PRIME initiative, for example, helped unemployed people over 50 find work through self-employment.

Australia, by comparison, lacks entrepreneurship policies and initiatives in the 50-plus market. Our governments tend to focus on younger entrepreneurs or on retraining older workers so they can apply for another job.

There has been little recognition of the potential of older Australians to participate in startups and turn them into larger businesses that employ people. Or of the need for older Australians to create their next job, not only apply it.

As the population ages and more workers are displaced by technology, a stronger culture of entrepreneurship is needed. It must not exclude older workers as they have knowledge, networks and access to resources that younger entrepreneurs often do not.

Understanding seniorpreneurship

Over the years, senior entrepreneurs have been referred to as seniorpreneurs, grey entrepreneurs, latepreneurs, third-age entrepreneurs, and second-career or mature-aged entrepreneurs. But few local studies have studied them in detail or informed government policy.

Our research goal was to understand why mature workers choose self-employment as a late-career option and become “opportunity entrepreneurs” – as distinct from “necessity entrepreneurs”, older workers who are pushed or pulled into self-employment because they need a job or have to supplement their retirement income.

There is much more to it than an ageing population driving more Australians into older age brackets, and entrepreneurship rates in this group rising by default. Our research shows considerable interest among mature workers to pursue business opportunities.

About 80% of survey respondents significantly valued the non-financial benefits of self-employment, such as lifestyle and health preferences. For many, starting a business is a key to active ageing and extending their working life.

Intuitively, this makes sense. As people lead longer, healthier lives, more will feel more capable of launching a startup later in life than in previous generations.

A changing workforce will also drive higher rates of seniorpreneurship as more people move between full-time work and self-employment. Starting a business will become a viable option – perhaps the only option – for a growing number of mature workers who are made redundant and cannot find comparable employment elsewhere.

Moreover, technology is making it easier and cheaper to start businesses and the ageing population represents an opportunity for seniorpreneurs who understand the needs of this market and can turn their problems into opportunities.

Policy considerations

Much can be done to help seniorpreneurs. Our research found governments can increase awareness of the feasibility of seniorpreneurship, and enhance motivations, skills and opportunities for it.

Governments could also establish legislative support mechanisms for seniorpreneurship, and provide specialist advice and information.

Targeting training and education for nascent and current seniorpreneurs, mentorship activities and networking facilities are other opportunities. Schemes that help seniors access capital to start ventures, link young and old entrepreneurs, and incentivise seniorpreneurs, are other among other recommendations.

Governments must act. Assuming entrepreneurship is mostly a “young person’s game” is a form of ageism Australia cannot afford.

Alex Maritz, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurshipm and Innovation; Education Director: ARC Training Centre in Biodevices, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Our population is getting older. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of people aged between 50 and State Pension age will rise by almost four million, while the numbers aged 16 to 49 will fall – and amazingly, one in three babies born today is expected to live to 100.  It is, of course, good news that most people can expect to live much longer.

And the even better news is that most of the increasing numbers of older people will be fitter and healthier for longer too.  This means we need to update our concept of what ‘old’ means and alter the stereotypes, particularly of older people in the workplace.

Change is already beginning as employers are starting to realise what they stand to lose if their older staff leave.  Some firms are finding ways to retain their more mature workers, making it easier for them to keep on working in later life.  I would urge all employers to take this issue seriously.  If they don’t, they risk losing a large chunk of their workforce – and valuable skills in coming years.

Enabling those who want to work longer has the power to make British businesses more competitive and increase our country’s economic activity significantly.

Many older people want to keep working. Not only can this benefit their income and general wellbeing, it could also provide a significant boost to their pensions, as well as to the economy.

Since 2011, the Government has outlawed forced retirement at age 65.  This has allowed record numbers to stay in work – more than 1million over 65s are now choosing to keep working.

Looking to the future

Since my report earlier this year ‘A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit’, when I was the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, progress has been made.

Numerous employers have written to tell me  what they are doing to break the age barriers, including committing to mid-life career reviews for their workforce and providing advice to line-managers on how to support their female staff during the menopause. And there are many more areas that employers are exploring.  For example, as they facilitate childcare needs for younger workers, they are considering how to support older employees who may have caring responsibilities.

In turn the Government is also increasing the support available to help older people return to work.  Too many over 50s find it too difficult to re-join the labour market in later life, but desperately want to, so we have introduced ‘Older workers’ champions in Jobcentres around the country, as well as a number of pilots to support older people into work by helping them to build their confidence and skills.

Waking up to the benefits of older workers

One firm that has certainly recognised the benefits of older workers is Barclays. It has actively promoted an apprenticeship programme to encourage a range of people to apply – including the over 50s. You may have seen their adverts on TV this week.

The Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays, Mike Thompson, wants to recruit people of all ages and backgrounds. He finds the life experience and empathy that older workers bring, often helps when speaking to customers.

I absolutely agree with this. Having a diverse workforce – including an age diverse workforce – enables a business to reflect its customer base; to better understand and better serve its whole range of clients in an ageing population.

Angela is one of the Barclays scheme’s new recruits. She is 51 and has successfully secured an apprenticeship with the firm. Before joining, she cared for her father for a number of years, but was keen to re-join the workforce. She now has the opportunity to be supported in learning new skills and progressing with her career.

She feared employers would not be interested in her, but is really enjoying her new role and enjoys being part of, what she calls, the “hustle and bustle” of working life.

Still a long way to go

But of course some employers have yet to see the light. Overcoming ageism and other barriers to encourage fuller working lives remains a priority for me.  I will continue to update you on our progress. 

As we can look forward to living longer, we need to re-think what ‘old’ looks like and dispel any myths that over 50s or over 60s will all soon be ‘past it’ – most of them can benefit from learning new skills and taking on new challenges. 

Nowadays, being over 50 does not necessarily mean you will soon stop work.  Employers who harness the talent, dedication, loyalty and enthusiasm of the over 50s will reap significant benefits in future.  Taking this issue seriously can help everyone – it is good for ourselves, our economy and our nation’s success. 

While recently having a coffee with a friend, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation at the table next to ours. Two women in their 60s were enthusiastically discussing their jobs. Their tête-à-tête was inspiring.

Image: iStock

Inspiring woman number one was talking about how much she loves her job and how her employer has trained her to use all the technology available to make her job easier. She’s a team leader with a large cleaning company. She works part-time and job-shares with another person. She enjoys the fact that her employer is happy to be flexible and to provide ongoing training, as she’s eager to learn. The conversation turned to interviewing staff, and how often she hears older women talk about how difficult they find it to secure a job. This is particularly true, she recounted, if they’ve been out of the workforce for a while, despite the obvious life experience and work skills they have. “How lucky we are to have jobs at our age,” she said.

Inspiring woman number two agreed. She shared that she’s enjoying her job despite having moved from part-time to full-time work at the request of the employer. She says she’s happy to help her employer during a busy period and hopes eventually to move back to part-time work; she’d gladly train someone else to help make that happen.

What an uplifting conversation!

Recent research shows that these two friends are among a growing segment of Australian women. The number of older Australians in the workforce is rising, with an increased number of Aussie women working past the age of 55, according to a research report from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research entitled Two Decades of Change: The Australian Labour Market 1993-2013.

The report shows a sharp rise in the number of women aged 60 to 64 still in the labour force, from 15.2 per cent in 1993 to 45.1 per cent in 2013. The number of women aged 55 to 59 working in 2013 hit 65.3 per cent, up from 36.8 per cent in 1993.

Likewise, the number of men aged 65 or older working more than doubled over the two decades, reaching 16.9 per cent in 2013, and the number of those aged 60 to 64 increased from 48.3 per cent in 1993 to 62.5 per cent in 2013.

The good news is, these figures are increasing; the bad news is, we still have a long way to go to wipe out age discrimination.

Source: NRMA

The most significant barrier facing older workers in Australia is age discrimination, according to Labor’s Shadow Minister for Ageing, Shayne Neumann.

Speaking at the Community Work 2015 conference in Melbourne last week, Neumann said older Australians were being held back from the workforce not due to a lack of want.

“The data shows that older people want to work, however the Australian Human Rights Commission research into age stereotypes found negative assumptions about ageing prevail,” Neumann said.

“These negative perceptions have real, pervasive and damaging consequences.

“As one of the largest growth sectors, social and community services need to see a massive increase in services, particularly for older Australians. And that workforce is going to need to be greyer.”

Neumann said that Labor supported Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan’s concept of jobs checkpoints.

He said jobs checkpoints would operate out of TAFE Colleges and provide support and assistance for people who need to look at their employment options.

“It is one thing to get older people into work, but we need to address two of the biggest barriers to mature age employment,” he said.

“The first is the absence of adequate workers compensation provision and income protection to cover older workers.

“I am pleased that this issue is the subject of a recent media focus and public debate.

“However, the most significant barrier to employment is age discrimination.

“Rather than punishing older people, [we need to look] creatively at how we can maximise the opportunities presented by the longevity revolution.

“With more people turning retirement age than working age, as a nation we have to address housing and public transport, work and productivity, taxation and revenue streams, age discrimination and much more.”

Neumann also used his speech to defend the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and said that the social sector was still “misunderstood, undervalued and often dismissed”.

“While Tony Abbott’s Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison has not been as zealous as his predecessor Kevin Andrews has in trying to remove the ACNC, the fact is that Bill remains on the Notice Paper,” he said.

“Labor continues to stand with the sector to support the ACNC, which is critical to a well-functioning not-for-profit sector.

“We recognise the vital work you perform. That is not the case with all sides of politics.

“I believe this sector is misunderstood, undervalued and often dismissed. Essentially it is a perception issue.

“You provide services as opposed to products. While services industries are the fastest growing sectors, I think there is a resistance to understanding how we trade and maximise services.

“Unlike a piece of coal you cannot weigh it, measure it or hold it in your hand.”

– See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/08/discrimination-standing-way-older-workers#sthash.KL3TgUec.dpuf

 

Source:  Pro Bono Australia

 / JUN 16, 2015

Forget Gen Y, female baby boomers are the changing face of t...

The number of older Australians participating in the workforce is rising, with an increased number of Australian women working past the age of 55, according to research from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research.

The study comes off the back of the Intergenerational Report, which recently highlighted the ageing workforce and the importance of employers taking older employees into consideration.

The wide-ranging research, titled Two Decades of Change: The Australian Labour Market 1993–2013, shows the number of both men and women in the workforce over the age of 55 had increased significantly in the last two decades.

In particular, it showed a sharp rise in the number of women aged 60-64 still in the labour force, jumping from 15.2% in 1993 to 45% in 2013. The number of women aged 55-59 working in 2013 had hit 65.3%, from 36.8% in 1993.

Likewise, the number of men aged 65 or older working or looking for work doubled in the two decades to reach 17% in 2013, while the number of those aged 60-64 had increased from 48.3% to 62.5%.

Roger Wilkins, who co-authored the report with Mark Wooden, told Smart Company the swell of older Australian women participating in the labour market reflected a broader societal shift in female labour force participation.

“Twenty years ago, older females had very low participation rates, so there was an enormous amount of scope for change there,” Wilkins says.

“Twenty of thirty years ago, younger women began heading into career-type employment… Those women are now aged 50 to 60, so a lot of the increase is reflecting that.”

Wilkins says the steadily increasing age of pension eligibility over the past 20 years is also reflected in the research.

Asked if this ballooning of an ageing workforce will continue, Wilkins says while it is speculative, there is “certainly still plenty of room for a further increase of older workers”.

“I would be surprised if it got up to levels [in other brackets], but there is considerable scope for a further increase in the participation rate of 55 and over,” he says.

Meanwhile, Nikki Brouwers, chief executive of workplace rehabilitation and health specialist group Interact, says the research is a reminder for small businesses to consider employing older Australians. Brouwers recommends employers consider several ways of attracting and retaining an older workforce.

“Firstly, employers need to consider the flexibility of work hours. Older workers will often want to work earlier and finish earlier,” she says.

“There’s also the consideration of learning styles. Online learning for example might not be the best approach for older workers.”

Lastly, Brouwers says there are other issues such as ergonomics, lighting and movement that employers should take into account.

“What small business employers need to realise is they don’t need to be experts, they just need to engage with their workers, because at the end of the day, they will be best able to articulate what they need,” she adds.

This article first appeared at Women’s Agenda sister publication, Smart Company.

Date

Social Affairs Reporter

If you’re over 50 and looking for work you face some tough choices: 15 years on Newstart until you reach pension age and hundreds of job applications which go nowhere. But some large employers are responding writes Rachel Browne

Mature workers Peter Kitson-Crowe 65 (left) and Ronny Brennan 64 (right) at their work, Masters Home Improvement in Casula, Sydney.

Mature workers Peter Kitson-Crowe 65 (left) and Ronny Brennan 64 (right) at their work, Masters Home Improvement in Casula, Sydney. Photo: Kate Geraghty

At 64 years old and a grandfather of 10, Ronny Brennan doesn’t fit the profile of a typical sales assistant.

While many of his contemporaries are seeing out their 60s on the golf course, Brennan spends his days organising stock and advising customers at Masters Home Improvement in Chullora.

I’m too young to retire but apparently too old to get a job. 

Deborah Murray, 58-year-old job seeker

A former locksmith, Bobcat operator and gardener, he tried retirement but his wife ordered him to get back to work.

Mature aged worker Peter Kitson-Crowe.

Mature aged worker Peter Kitson-Crowe. Photo: Kate Geraghty

“I thought it would be hard to find a job at my age but this came up and I jumped at it,” he said. “I want to keep working. I’ve got no intention of retiring.”

His colleague Peter Kitson-Crowe, 65, is similarly motivated: “I’m not going to retire. I’m too young. I want to be here into my 70s.”

Kitson-Crowe was a corporate banker in a time “when you reached 55 you were gone”. The Menai man took a package from his former employer when he was in his early 50s to focus on settling his young daughter into school. After a period of working as a financial consultant and mortgage broker, he decided he wanted a “fresh start” and now works in freight at Masters.

Masters Home Improvement is part of Woolworths, one of an increasing number of large employers actively recruiting workers aged over 50.

Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans is urging more companies to follow suit to offset the growing ranks of the mid-life unemployed who won’t reach pension age for many years.

“Australia is changing and workplaces need to keep up with that,” she said. “Nowadays, 60 is no longer considered old, people are having children later, and many are paying off mortgages later in life. It is nonsensical to prejudice older workers who bring a great deal of skills, knowledge and expertise which should not be overlooked.”

People aged over 50 comprise more than a third of the long-term unemployed and one-quarter of Newstart recipients.

Brennan and Kitson-Crowe are two of the lucky ones. But it can be a bleak picture for many, according to Judy Higgins, director of Older Workers, Australia’s leading job board for the over-50s.

“The longer they are out of work, the harder it is for them,” she said. “It does affect their self-esteem, it does affect their mental health. They go downhill very quickly.”

Deborah Murray is 58 and has been out of work for more than three years. While caring for her elderly mother in Sydney’s east, she’s applied for hundreds of jobs but refuses to lose hope.

“It is tough. I’m too young to retire but apparently too old to get a job,” she said.

“You get so many knockbacks you get to the point where you just don’t care.  You just feel as if nobody wants you. You have to keep trying, though. You can’t give up.”

Murray previously worked in accounting but has been turned down for basic office administration roles.

“Being unemployed is one of the biggest drawbacks in itself,” she said. “Employers look at you and wonder what’s wrong with you.”

IT systems engineer Mark Gerrey​, 51, has applied for more than 500 jobs in the past four months, joking that looking for work has become his “full time job.”

 With 22 years’ experience in the navy and a decade in IT, he’s learned to decode the language of the job advertisements.

“If they use words like energetic, bright and enthusiastic they are after a 25-year-old” he says.  “You may as well not apply.”

Gerrey, of Campbelltown, believes experience and maturity are undervalued by many recruiters.

“I’ve commonly heard that I am over-qualified for a role,” he said.

Buthe, too, refuses to give up on his job search, ever hopeful that some upcoming interviews will lead to work.

Source:  SMH

Professor of management at London Business School Lynda Gratton was in Sydney for the World Business Forum.
Professor of management at London Business School Lynda Gratton was in Sydney for the World Business Forum. Dominic Lorrime

Employers should experiment with pay cuts and salary freezes for older workers to overcome age discrimination at work, a leading human resource professor says.

But any company that follows her advice would risk a public campaign run by advocacy group National Seniors Association.

Lynda Gratton, a London Business School professor and HR consultancy Hot Spots founder who advises big banks and insurance companies in Australia, said companies should consider not giving employees pay rises as they get older, or even giving them a pay cut.

Ms Gratton, who was in Sydney on Wednesday to address the World Business Forum, said:​ “I think one needs to be a bit more creative about how we think of age and salary structure.

“One difficulty is in any corporation, because people’s salary goes up every year, the older you are often the more you’re paid and that makes older people more expensive.

“So one of the things we’ve been playing around with is, would it be sensible for people’s salary not to go up just because they’re getting older and that would make them easier to employ? Would it be possible to think about their salary going down and they do more mentoring and coaching work?

“I think we’ve only ever seen age and salary as a straight line that goes up but why don’t we think about it as a line that goes down?”

OUT OF TOUCH

National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O’Neill said her comment was “completely out of touch” with the Australian industrial relations system and he would be prepared to fight against any bank or insurance company that reduced employees’ pay on the basis of their age.

“I would be happy to run a campaign against any institution that chooses to reduce workers’ pay because of their age and I’m sure consumers will react,” he said.

“We recognise the contribution older Australians make in the workplace. They should be remunerated fairly and it’s nonsense to say otherwise. Negotiating pay based on a birth certificate is clearly unacceptable.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said Ms Gratton’s comments did not apply to the Australian industrial environment.

“In general people are not paid more just because they had birthdays,” she said. “Most people negotiate their pay with their employer.”

Ms Ryan said in some cases workers might want a less-demanding role as they get older.

“Both the employer and the employee may agree on a different role, with a lesser pay package,” she said.

Most banks and financial sectors had been doing well in addressing age discrimination in the workplace, she said.

“They do it because their customers want to deal with experienced officers. So I think banks recognise the value of the experience of older employees to their business.”

LEGAL HOT WATER

Employers who took Ms Gratton’s advice might also find themselves in legal hot water.

Employment law firm Justicia managing partner Sarah Rey warned that employers who gave staff pay cuts or salary freezes purely on the basis of their age exposed themselves to the risk of unlawful age discrimination.

“Ultimately anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from discriminating on a variety of grounds. So if you are treating someone poorly and it has nothing to do with their performance, then that would be discrimination. If you’re looking to treat them less favourably it has to be something other than age,” she said.

More older workers are projected to remain in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. But a survey commissioned by the Age Discrimination Commission found in the past two years more than half of jobseekers over 50 were discriminated against on the basis of age.

The Treasury’s Intergenerational Report in 2015 predicts the workforce participation rate among those older than 65 will jump from 12.9 per cent in 2015 to 17.3 per cent in 2055.

To encourage employment of older workers, the government has introduced a grant of up to $10,000 to employers who hire workers older than 50 who have been unemployed for six months or longer.

Ms Gratton said while she was not aware of companies pursuing her pay strategy, in practice older workers were already taking pay cuts as they quit their jobs and moved into different jobs, such as consultancy roles.

HAPPENS ANYWAY

“I think in labour market it happens anyway because people leave corporations and they get jobs that pay them less. I think in reality it is happening but I don’t think corporations acknowledge that.”

One way of thinking about salary could be linked to child rearing, she said.

“One could actually say the time when people need most money is when they are in their 30s, when they have young kids to look after. When they are getting paid more in their 40s and 50s is actually when they don’t require as much money.”

Ms Ryan said Ms Gratton’s comment about the expenses related to child-rearing responsibilities did not reflect the diversity of the nation’s families.

“Many in their 50s have got their second families. If they have a second family and a second mortgage they would be in a terrible situation.”

 Source:   AFR

An ageing economy will be a slower and more unequal one—unless policy starts changing now

WARREN BUFFETT, who on May 3rd hosts the folksy extravaganza that is Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ meeting, is an icon of American capitalism (see article). At 83, he also epitomises a striking demographic trend: for highly skilled people to go on working well into what was once thought to be old age. Across the rich world, well-educated people increasingly work longer than the less-skilled. Some 65% of American men aged 62-74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32% of men with only a high-school certificate. In the European Union the pattern is similar.

This gap is part of a deepening divide between the well-educated well-off and the unskilled poor that is slicing through all age groups. Rapid innovation has raised the incomes of the highly skilled while squeezing those of the unskilled. Those at the top are working longer hours each year than those at the bottom. And the well-qualified are extending their working lives, compared with those of less-educated people (see article). The consequences, for individuals and society, are profound.

Older, wiser and a lot of them

The world is on the cusp of a staggering rise in the number of old people, and they will live longer than ever before. Over the next 20 years the global population of those aged 65 or more will almost double, from 600m to 1.1 billion. The experience of the 20th century, when greater longevity translated into more years in retirement rather than more years at work, has persuaded many observers that this shift will lead to slower economic growth and “secular stagnation”, while the swelling ranks of pensioners will bust government budgets.

But the notion of a sharp division between the working young and the idle old misses a new trend, the growing gap between the skilled and the unskilled. Employment rates are falling among younger unskilled people, whereas older skilled folk are working longer. The divide is most extreme in America, where well-educated baby-boomers are putting off retirement while many less-skilled younger people have dropped out of the workforce.

Policy is partly responsible. Many European governments have abandoned policies that used to encourage people to retire early. Rising life expectancy, combined with the replacement of generous defined-benefit pension plans with stingier defined-contribution ones, means that even the better-off must work longer to have a comfortable retirement. But the changing nature of work also plays a big role. Pay has risen sharply for the highly educated, and those people continue to reap rich rewards into old age because these days the educated elderly are more productive than their predecessors. Technological change may well reinforce that shift: the skills that complement computers, from management expertise to creativity, do not necessarily decline with age.

This trend will benefit not just fortunate oldies but also, in some ways, society as a whole. Growth will slow less dramatically than expected; government budgets will be in better shape, as high earners pay taxes for longer. Rich countries with lots of well-educated older people will find the burden of ageing easier to bear than places like China, where half of all 50-to-64-year-olds did not complete primary-school education.

At the other end of the social scale, however, things look grim. Manual work gets harder as people get older, and public pensions look more attractive to those on low wages and the unemployed. In the lexicon of popular hate-figures, work-shirking welfare queens breeding at the taxpayer’s expense may be replaced by deadbeat grandads collecting taxpayer handouts while their hard-working contemporaries strive on.

Nor are all the effects on the economy beneficial. Wealthy old people will accumulate more savings, which will weaken demand. Inequality will increase and a growing share of wealth will eventually be transferred to the next generation via inheritance, entrenching the division between winners and losers still further.

One likely response is to impose higher inheritance taxes. So long as they replaced less-fair taxes, that might make sense. They would probably encourage old people to spend their cash rather than salt it away. But governments should focus not on redistributing income but on generating more of it by reforming retirement and education.

Age should no longer determine the appropriate end of a working life. Mandatory retirement ages and pension rules that discourage people from working longer should go. Welfare should reflect the greater opportunities open to the higher-skilled. Pensions should become more progressive (ie, less generous to the rich). At the same time, this trend underlines the importance of increasing public investment in education at all stages of life, so that more people acquire the skills they need to thrive in the modern labour market. Today, many governments are understandably loth to spend money retraining older folk who are likely to retire soon. But if people can work for longer, that investment makes much more sense. Deadbeat 60-year-olds are unlikely to become computer scientists, but they could learn useful vocational skills, such as caring for the growing number of very old people.

Old power

How likely are governments to make these changes? Look around the rich world today, and it is hard to be optimistic. The swelling ranks of older voters, and their disproportionate propensity to vote, have left politicians keener to pander to them than to implement disruptive reforms. Germany, despite being the fastest-ageing country in Europe, plans to cut the statutory retirement age for some people (see article). In America both Social Security (the public pension scheme) and the fast-growing system of disability benefits remain untouched by reform. Politicians need to convince less-skilled older voters that it is in their interests to go on working. Doing so will not be easy. But the alternative—economic stagnation and even greater inequality—is worse.

Source:  The Economist

A new study has found that although Australia’s talent shortage is continuing to be a prevalent issue, the number of employers implementing a strategy to deal with it is down by 5% from last year.

ManpowerGroup Australia’s tenth annual Talent Shortage Survey, which interviewed over 1,500 employers around the country, found that 42% of Aussie employers are struggling to fill roles.

Researchers found that employers are stepping away from addressing the talent shortage at a rate of one and a half times their global counterparts.

Lincoln Crawley, managing director at ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand called this pattern “alarming and disappointing”.

“Globally we have seen the number of businesses taking on strategies to counter the talent shortage increase, while on home soil this number has dropped dramatically over a 12 month period,” he said. “Australian employers are giving up.”

Crawley advised employers to tie a talent shortage strategy in with offering unorthodox ways of working.

“We are observing a divergence across the economy,” he said. “Employers who fail to adopt non-traditional work practices risk becoming irrelevant to the new generation of workers, while those that innovate will succeed.”

Experts at ManpowerGroup Australia shared the following tips with HC on how to address and tackle a skills shortage:

1. Have strong training and development programs so staff are continuously learning and growing

2. Establish realistic and regular incentive programs

3. Promote a family-friendly and flexible work environment while maintaining high standards of work and results

4. Utilise new parents returning to the workforce and consider job sharing to maximise the flexibility they are offered

5. Consider older staff – hiring over 50s qualifies companies for a government subsidy

6. Consistently work on strengthening your company’s point of difference to attract and retain the best in the industry

7. Communicate with your people regularly

8. Don’t forget to praise staff when they do a good job

9. Make efforts to inject fun into the workplace so people are excited and motivated even when times are tough

10. Design medium to long term career plans to give staff visibility to all potential career paths

Employers around Australia reported that the most difficult roles to fill were management and executive positions, skilled trades and sales representatives. Skilled trades have remained the most challenging positions to fill for nine years.

“While skilled trades have continued to be the hardest roles to fill for nearly a decade, the demand profile has changed in recent years,” said Crawley. “Demand for roles like electricians and mechanics has eased, while a shift in infrastructure developments across the country is seeing demand outstrip supply for specialist engineers, labourers and skilled trades in infrastructure and construction.”

He added that one of the biggest challenges posed to employers was finding “ready-made specialists, rather than investing in developing existing skills”.

Crawley also called for employers to ensure that IT workers are being invested in so that they can reskill to remain relevant, adding that many IT roles are becoming obsolete.

According to the study’s findings, employers are aware of the constraints that skills shortages are putting on their company despite their apparent reluctance to take action.

Forty-six per cent said that skills shortages were reducing their ability to serve their clients, 33% said they were a hindrance to their organisation’s productivity and competitiveness, and 23% said it lowered employee engagement and morale.

The ten most difficult jobs to fill in 2015:

1.     Skilled trades
2.     Management / executives
3.     Sales representatives
4.     Engineers
5.     Technicians
6.     Labourers
7.     Accounting and finance staff
8.     Drivers
9.     IT Staff
10.   Secretaries, PAs, receptionists, administrative assistants and office support staff

Source:  HC Online
Beyond being told or incentivised to hire older workers, employers need to feel they are making the right decision. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

With Australia’s official retirement age heading to 70 by 2035, this year’s federal budget brings forward incentives designed to encourage companies to employ older workers.

The Restart Program, which provides $10,000 to employers to hire over 50s will have payments accelerated, and the government will also provide incentives to older unemployed people to retrain in order to get a job.

The measures go part of the way to addressing the challenges faced by older workers, but come amid ongoing age discrimination in Australia.

Empirical evidence suggests negative stereotypes are at the heart of this form of ageism. Such stereotypes are found among employers as well as the community at large.

Ageist attitudes and related stereotypes are a general socio-cultural phenomenon and are not confined to the workplace, meaning employers’ attitudes toward older workers are simply a reflection of a broader worldview. Being in positions where their decisions have direct impact on the lives of older workers, however, means their views attract more attention than those of other people.

It is not the intention of employers, who typically seek the best person for the job, to discriminate against older workers. But stereotypes are activated automatically in response to cues. For example, a person’s age, appearance, or date of graduation from school are all relevant cues that impact perception and judgement. Despite best intentions, employers’ judgement can be automatically biased by ageist stereotypes so they may miss the best person for the job in cases where it happens to be an older worker.

Common interventions to address ageism toward older workers have been in the form of policies, legislation, and fact sheets, with the former aimed at enforcing fair practice and the latter providing information. Policies, however, provoke resistance to change when people are being told to think and/or behave in particular ways and feel their free choice is threatened. Fact sheets, incongruent with employers’ worldviews, are often perceived as incorrect.

Getting past stereotypes

There are however ways to promote positive attitudes toward older adults among employers and increase the likelihood of them being hired.

One intervention tested successfully involved inducing cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a mentally unsustainable state that is evoked when a person holds two contradictory thoughts and/or beliefs simultaneously.

People are naturally driven to reduce cognitive dissonance, so much so that it often results in them either changing their attitude or further affirming their initial positions.

In our study we made employers aware that discriminating against older workers was potentially counterproductive and against our culturally enshrined value of a “fair-go”. Having been asked to endorse this view and provide their names, employers were advised they would be listed as people who opposed hiring discrimination against older adults and who were committed to non-discriminatory practice. This meant they would ultimately experience cognitive dissonance in response to activation of negative stereotypes in subsequent considerations of older workers.

We also developed fact sheets based on common misconceptions about older workers. Combining the cognitive dissonance aspect with the fact sheet produced the strongest effect.

Employers who participated in this part of the study showed more positive attitudes toward older workers overall, stated that they were more than likely to hire older workers, and considered age to be less important in making hiring decisions.

Attitudes are said to be relatively resistant to change, but by refuting misconceptions and enabling cognitive dissonance to be evoked in employers, we enabled them to maintain a sense of self-integrity as well as professionalism because these were now aligned with fair treatment of older workers.

Ultimately, it was the internal motivation of hiring decision makers that made the difference, as opposed to dictating to employers how they should behave. The next phase is to discuss various ways the intervention could be implemented.