Posts Tagged “mature age”

 

25 Mar 2015 | Diversity

The release of the Intergenerational report in early March catapulted me into a state of confusion.

Only the night before, I had been at the Australian Human Rights Commission launch of their corporate toolkit where they played a short video developed by the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Susan Ryan AO.  This video celebrates the power of oldness.  Not only is it thoroughly entertaining but it also dispels some of the myths about the capability of people in their more mature years.

However, the quirky video also revealed a sinister reality – that mature age workers face substantial discrimination and other barriers to fully participating in the workplace.

The Intergenerational Report has projected life expectancies to increase to 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women by 2054-55. It also projects labour market participation rates among those aged 65 and over to increase from the current rate of 12.9% to 17.3% in 2054-55. But until we tackle widespread ageism, is this increase really possible?

For most people, paid work is an incredibly important part of their lives. Not only does it provide a pathway to financial security but it also provides social interaction. It can contribute to improved self-esteem, mental and physical health and life satisfaction. Yet the Australian Human Rights Commission has reported that age discrimination was most likely to occur in the workplace, and that more than a third of Australians aged 55+ years have experienced age-related discrimination.

Dishearteningly, the Commission also found that younger business decision makers are the most likely to hold negative views of the workplace capabilities of older workers. In the context of an ageing population and an ageing workforce, this type of stereotyping is very problematic.

All of this is despite the fact that we know employing older workers can bring a range of benefits both to our workplaces and to the national economy. For example, increasing the labour participation of women throughout their working lives is estimated to have a major impact on the national economy.

Economist have noted the major impact that increasing the participation of older women would have on the economy. Modelling by the Productivity Commission indicates that increasing older women’s labour participation rates to match men’s could increase per capita GDP growth to 2044-45 by 1.5%. Research by the Grattan Institute has found that the combination of increased labour participation by women and older people could grow GDP by $50 billion over the next decade.

For older women, continued workforce participation throughout their later years is especially important as their retirement savings are likely to be much less than men’s. Men have an average super payout of $198,000, while women average $112,600[1] due to the increasing gender pay gap and time out of paid work to accommodate caring responsibilities.

There are clearly benefits to our economy of ensuring increased labour market participation by our older workers. But what other benefits can older workers bring to our workplaces?

Older workers often have significant knowledge and skills that they accumulated over their time in the workforce, and can assist employers and their colleagues to:

  • look at business operations from a different perspective
  • improve business processes
  • fill many skill or knowledge gaps
  • provide mentoring to less experienced employees
  • train other employees by sharing skills.

So how can we start a positive conversation in workplaces around engaging older workers and removing bias and discrimination against them?

Diversity Council Australia has conducted extensive research into labour market issues affecting mature age women and what employers can do to attract and retain older women.  In our report, Older Women Matter, a framework is laid out to positively support women into improved workforce participation. This framework (see below) provides a set of guided principles around productive employee engagement, workplace flexibility and the removal of structural and cultural barriers.

Employers can implement a range of initiatives to better support mature age works, in particular older women. But first we need to stop thinking negatively about older workers and start appreciating the enormous potential and value that older workers bring to workplaces across the country.

Then we can truly harness the power of oldness.

By Lisa Annese
Chief Executive Officer
Diversity Council Australia

 

Date:  March 23, 2015
Forty-seven per cent of jobs in the US will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two, according to research.

Forty-seven per cent of jobs in the US will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two, according to research. 

Robots and computer programs could almost wipeout human workers in jobs from cooks to truck drivers, a visiting researcher has warned.

Driverless cars and even burger-flipping robots are among the technological advancements gunning for low-skilled jobs across dozens of industries.

University of Oxford Associate Professor in machine learning Michael Osborne has examined the characteristics of 702 occupations in the US, predicting 47 per cent will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two.

University of Oxford Associate Professor in machine learning Michael Osborne. Photo: Supplied

Those most at-risk jobs are in accommodation and food services (87 per cent of workers at high risk of being replaced), transportation and warehousing (75 per cent) and real estate (67 per cent).

By contrast, only about 10 per cent of workers in the information sector, software developers and higher level management were at risk of automation.

Professor Osborne said machines and computers still struggled with creativity, social intelligence and the manipulation of complex objects, making jobs with high requirements in these areas less vulnerable to robotisation.

“What unites all those bottlenecks [in computer ability] is kind of a deep reservoir of tacit knowledge humans possess that’s not readily reproducible in software,” he said.

“For example, in order to be creative, you need to understand the creative values of the society in which you find yourself.

“It’s very easy to design an algorithm that endlessly churns out paintings or pieces of music but it’s very difficult to get that algorithm to distinguish between good pieces of music and bad pieces of music.”

While the results, which Professor Osborne had been reproduced with similar results in the UK and Scandinavia, are bad news for individuals, they don’t necessarily predict a sky-rocketing unemployment rate as machines take over the workforce.

History is full of examples of machines replacing workers.

At the start of the 20th century about 40 per cent of US workers were in agriculture. That’s now about two per cent but the unemployment rate has remained relatively steady.

The invention of the car savaged jobs in the horse transport industry but gave rise to tourism and all the jobs that come with it.

In the early 19th century the Luddites rioted against labour-replacing machinery in the English textile industry, coining a name for someone resistant to change.

“These people weren’t irrational. There were genuine risks to their jobs,” Professor Osborne said.

“And while overall in the end unemployment wasn’t affected, there certainly were very severe negative consequences for those workers in the short term.

“I think the story here is fairly similar actually that in the end, yes we may see new forms of work generated but it’s not  clear that the kind of people who are put out of work, which I said ought to be those at the low-skilled end of the spectrum, are necessarily going to be those that move into those new forms of work.”

Technology will need to become more user-friendly and create new kinds of jobs given there would always be a resistance to its adoption, Professor Osborne said.

But Hollywood’s imagery of terminators and other self-aware robots wreaking havoc was not a healthy narrative to consider, he said.

“In the long term yes, we will see machines that may be potentially so intelligent as to have goals that aren’t consistent with our own and there might be consequences of that,” he said.

“But I think in the near term the larger question is that of employment really, and how people’s work might be affected by increasing automation.”

Professor Osborne is in Brisbane to speak about the future of work at the Queensland University of Technology on Tuesday.

He said many newly created industries such as software development and big data analysis weren’t creating as many jobs as thought but renewable energy industries were booming in the US and said Australian governments should be fostering similar innovation.

“There’s not a single silver bullet solution to this issue but investing in those new industries is certainly an important plank,” he said.

– With AAP

Source:  Brisbane Times

Australia’s jobless figure fell by 0.1 percentage points in February after a shock rise in January.

Centrelink

The rate of unemployment fell to 6.3 per cent in February, down from 6.4 per cent in January, spelling some positive news for Australia’s floundering economy.

There are now 777,300 unemployed jobseekers in Australia, a decrease of 15,800, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The number of employed people, meanwhile, now stands at 11,652,400 an increase of 15,600.

• Aussie dollar must fall: RBA
• Consumer gloom persists

The ABS said the increase in employment was driven by increases in both full-time (up 10,300) and part-time employment (up 5,300). The employment rate increased for both men and women.

The figures also revealed that the labour force participation rate decreased to 64.6 per cent in February 2015, from 64.7 per cent in January 2015.

The collective number of hours worked in February went up by 13 million hours to 1,620.8 million hours, a 0.8 per cent increase.

 

Source:  The New Daily

Older Worker

Joyleen Thomas, 73, works full-time in the aged care sector as an administrator, the oldest worker in the 2000-employee ACH Group. Picture: Kelly BarnesSource: News Corp Australia

JOYLEEN Thomas’s career began at 42, after she spent two decades out of the paid workforce to raise her family.

Now approaching 74, Mrs Thomas has worked from the “bottom of the rung” to become the oldest full-time worker of 2000 employees at aged care provider ACH Group and has no plans to retire.

Part of her job at ACH’s Adelaide headquarters is to evaluate programs to improve the quality of life of aged care residents.

“I have no idea when I will give up work … quite a lot of people I know have left and then come back into the workforce. My ­husband is an accountant; he works two days a week and he’s older than me,’’ she said.

INTERACTIVE: The InterGenerational Report

“It’s my choice. My husband says that I’m healthier and more vibrant than when I was home with my children. What we know today is that people like me may live to 100 — we don’t want to just exist for those years.”

Mrs Thomas said although her husband had experienced ageism when seeking work after an initial retirement at 67, she had felt no pressure to retire from her role.

Although the Intergenerational Report projects Australians over 65 will increase workforce participation this year, reaching 17.3 per cent in 2054-55, finding a job at an advanced age was proving difficult, said Mark Henley, advocacy manager for ­financial counselling and community support service Uniting Communities.

He said financial pressures were forcing more older people back to work beyond retirement.

“We see more older people wanting and needing work ­because they can’t afford to retire. Jobs for older people is more the issue we see,’’ he said.

Council on the Ageing South Australian chief executive Jane Mussared said the report’s aim to increase Australians’ longevity and health should be celebrated.

“But we also need to increase the opportunities for older people to stay in and, in many cases, get back into, the workforce,’’ she said.

Although work participation rates are expected to fall by 2.2 per cent to 62.4 per cent by 2055, Ms Mussared said the participation rate of people aged over 55 was climbing slowly climbing.

 

Source The Australian

March 8, 2015
CYNTHIA CATO

CYNTHIA CATO

The ‘grey army’ is a key to Australia’s future prosperity, according to Treasurer Joe Hockey. But what can the government do to increase participation of older people in the workforce? Its Restart program which offers employers $10,000 to hire an unemployed older person for two years has been a flop so far. Since last July, 956 people have benefited, the Employment Minister, Eric Abetz’s office told me. The program was expected to help up to 32,000 a year. Another program called Corporate Champions, aimed mainly at helping firms retain older workers, looks destined for the chop despite support in the business community. Corporate Champions was a Labor government initiative that was supposed to run for three years from 2013-2016. It’s proven so popular the allocated money has run out after a year, and no new companies can sign up.

Despite a surge in mature-age employment in the past 15 years, Australia has one of thelowest workforce participation rates for older people in the developed world. A higher proportion of older people is in work in New Zealand, the U.K, Sweden, Canada and the US. It’s relatively unusual to see someone of pension age strap-hanging on the bus in the morning peak hour. Can this be changed?

I think there’s no doubt Australia’s workplaces should harness the experience and wisdom of older people, and their contribution to the GDP. A lot of Australians can’t wait to retire; others want to work till they drop. A third group is in-between – they’d stay longer at work if more flexible work conditions were on offer. “Mature workers want to work longer but differently,” Alison Monroe, of Sageco, an employment consultancy, told me.

Many in this in-between group retire as soon as they can access their superannuation or the pension, or if other needs or desires pull them away. Because they want to pick up their grandkids from school a couple of days a week, or play golf on Fridays, they exit the workforce without exploring options. They assume bosses will be pleased to be rid of them.

That’s what Cynthia Cato 63 assumed when she resigned. She was in the young people’s business of advertising. She loved her job as a proof reader at the advertising agency. But she’d lost the affordable rented accommodation she’d enjoyed in Sydney for 30 years after the owner died. As a single woman, she couldn’t afford to buy near the city. But she could afford to buy in the countryside. She bought a beautiful cottage in rural Victoria, and she hoped she’d get a job packing shelves in a supermarket. “The managing director of the agency asked to see me. He said, ‘Cyndi, I’m not in the habit of letting good people go’ and so they worked out a deal,” Cynthia told me.

Cynthia now works from her rural Victorian home for the Sydney-based ad agency and couldn’t be happier. “If you have the internet, there’s no reason you can’t make a contribution to the workplace,” she said. “Older workers are prepared to give 110 per cent. We’re willing and reliable.”

The Corporate Champions program is geared mainly at this particular group – the workers who given flexibility could be persuaded to stay longer. Holding on to the existing mature-age workforce is where the big potential lies to increase participation. When the National Australia bank, one of the Corporate Champions, surveyed its mature-age workforce it found 91 per cent said they would work longer if they could work more flexibly; 62 per cent of staff leaders as a result of the program took steps to reduce barriers for older workers.

The Corporate Champions program has involved 486 big and small companies. Government funds don’t go to the companies but to approved providers who survey staff on retirement intentions, what it would take for them to work longer, and so on. Transition-to- retirement seminars in company time for workers have shocked some into knowledge of their true retirement financial position. The program appears to have been useful in educating both employees and employers. But last week’s Intergenerational Report mentioned only Restart as a government initiative for mature-age workers, signalling the possible end of Corporate Champions.

So many programs in this mature-age workers’ space have come and gone, from the “Wise Workforce” program of the Howard government to Labor’s Jobs Bonus. Many are not well thought-out or given a chance. Restart needs a bit of time to show it’s not a complete waste of money. And Corporate Champions should not be ditched just because it was a Labor initiative if it’s shown to change attitudes and practices.

More direct ways to keep older workers at the grindstone also need consideration. The most obvious is to raise the age at which superannuation can be accessed to the pension age. What’s your view of that? By 2023, the pension eligibility age will be 67 but access to super will be at age 60 (from 2024). Maintaining the gap provides a lure to the better-off to retire. Most importantly we need an economy that creates enough jobs for young and old. As for unemployed older people who are desperate to re-join a grey army of workers, they need a better deal. Higher penalties for age discrimination, and more naming and shaming of errant firms are needed to jolt employers and recruitment firms into changing their ways. The nicely, nicely approach hasn’t worked.

Source:  Adele Horin blog

Posted 

Assistant Employment Luke Hartsuyker says local employers need to start seeing the value of older workers.

The Federal Government’s Intergenerational Report, released yesterday, found people will need to retire much later in decades ahead due to the ageing population.

Just 13 percent of people aged over 65 are currently working or looking for work.

Older workers bring to their enterprise a wealth of experience

Assistant Employment Minister and Cowper MP, Luke Hartsuyker

Mr Hartsuyker said those numbers are going to have to rise, as people continue to live much longer lives.

The Cowper MP said employers also have a role to play, in placing more trust in older workers.

“I think it’s important that employers actively look for the benefits that older workers can bring,” he said.

“The Government has a role to play in providing incentives, where appropriate – that’s an important step.

“But I think its important that employers take into account that older workers bring to their enterprise a wealth of experience, a lifetime of experience.”

Mr Hartsuyker said the future of the nation’s economy depends on people working much later into their lives.

“That’s an important element, that we engage our older workers in the workforce, keep them in the workforce and keep them contributing, if we’re going to have the sort standard of living that we want for our future.”

Source: ABC

•40,000 Aussies will reach the age of 100 by the middle of the century

•Life expectancy will jump to 97 for women and 95 for men

•By 2055, number of people reaching retirement will have doubled

•Unexpected trend shows many over-60s already returning to work OLDER Australians are being urged to stay in the workforce longer to support a rapidly ageing population.

Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday issued a call to arms for workers to delay their ­retirement until after 65 to ­future-proof the nation for the coming generations. It comes as the five-yearly Intergenerational ­Report, released today, reveals Australians born after 2055 are expected to live to an average of almost 100 years, placing a massive burden on the shrinking tax base needed to pay for the demographic shift.

Almost 40,000 Australians will have reached 100 by the middle of the century, an increase of well over 300 times the 122 people of that age alive in 1974-75. And more than two million will be aged over 85 — compared with 80,000 in the mid-1970s — representing a fivefold increase to almost 5 per cent of the population. “We need a call to arms for a grey army,” Mr Hockey told The Daily Telegraph. “We want you. We want you at the front. Not grey nomads but a grey army of workers.”

The report says that with improvements in health and new technologies, the average life expectancy of Australians will be 95 years for men and 97 for women by 2055, compared with 80.7 and 84.8 now. In 1905 it was just 55 and 59.

Life expectancyLife expectancy Joe Hockey needs YOU … to delay retirement. .

 

But illustrating the looming budget and economic crisis awaiting Australia if pre-emptive social and fiscal reforms are not undertaken now, the report also reveals the number of people reaching the current retirement age of 65 will have almost doubled by 2055.

The problem for the next generation is that the ratio between the number of people of traditional working age — between 15 and 65 — and retirees will have halved. In 1970, there were an average of 7.5 people of working age relative to those of pension age. This has shrunk to 4.5 today, and it will again halve by 2055 to just 2.7 workers for every retiree. “There will be fewer people of traditional working age relative to each person aged over 65,” the report says.

The strain on the economy and the federal budget due to a shrinking number of workers paying income tax relative to those of pension age will be immense. But in encouraging signs that older people are willing to work if the opportunities are created, the ­report forecasts that about 20 per cent of all people aged over 65 will still be participating in the workforce.

The report reveals an emerging and unexpected trend showing over-65s are already returning to work. The damage to pension funds caused by the global ­financial crisis meant many people could not afford to ­retire, and this trend will continue. Today, some 10 per cent of over-65s are working, and this is forecast to rise to 20 per cent by 2055. The Greens said they would push for the report to be referred to a Senate budget committee for scrutiny.

KEITH’S ONLY TOO HAPPY TO SHELVE HIS RETIREMENT

Ian Walker RETIREMENT seemed a good idea at the time. But after a couple of years out of the workforce, Keith Wardle, 59, from Rouse Hill decided days working on the house were not doing it for him.

Now working as an assistant at Masters Home Improvement’s new Rouse Hill store, the former Rolls Royce customer service worker loves his new lease on work life. “I was just excited about the chance of getting back out there to become more active,” Mr Wardle said.

Keith Wardle, 60, at work yesterday in his second career, at Masters Home Improvement  “I wanted to get back into the workforce, the DIY thing was fine but I wanted to get back out there and start challenging myself. “I had no idea how it was going to work out, but within a few weeks I was really enjoying what I wanted to get back into the workforce, the DIY thing was fine but I wanted to get back out there and start challenging myself Keith Wardle I was doing. For the last couple of months I’ve been flat out. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.” As one of the more experienced hands on the floor with 40 years of technical experience, Mr Wardle has passed on pearls of wisdom to younger workers he has taken under his wing.

Preparing him and his wife for long-term retirement also pushed him to start earning again. Mostly, however, it was the chance to make his DIY passion his livelihood. The full-time appliances showroom assistant does not plan on retiring for a second time any time soon. “I just want to keep going. I like to be occupied, I like to be active.”

Source: www.dailytelegraph.com.au

 

Joe Hockey says Australians need to be encouraged to work until later in life, but they s

Joe Hockey says Australians need to be encouraged to work until later in life, but they say it’s not that easy. Source: Getty Images

GOOD luck with your ‘grey army’ Joe Hockey. Ageism is alive and well among employers, according to a study of Australian women.

The treasurer is urging older Australians to stay in the workforce beyond the age of 65 as the government’s five-yearly Intergenerational Report will today reveal Australians will soon have a life expectancy of almost 100.

The report suggests those who are not working, women in particular, need to be encouraged to get employment, re-enter the workforce, or prolong their careers.

Join the grey army ... Joe Hockey’s report says older women need to be encouraged to work

Join the grey army … Joe Hockey’s report says older women need to be encouraged to work longer. Source: News Corp Australia

But ask older women, and they’ll tell you it’s not that easy.

A survey of 14,000 Australian women has revealed almost half believe they had personally been discriminated against because of their age, and 62 per cent of respondents believed employers are more likely to hire a candidate under the age of 40.

Sydney case worker Janice Quillity was made redundant when the company she worked for restructured three years ago, and has found it difficult to find work ever since, and believes it has a lot to do with her age.

The 53-year-old was told bluntly by an employment agency she should give up looking for work in her profession and just go for “a survival job”.

“I was told, just face it, you’re too old,” she says.

“When you’re competing for work with younger women, who may not be as qualified, who can be paid less and have a work ethic that’s more in line with the cost-cutting measures that employers seem to have in place, then it seems a lot harder.”

Life expectancy

Source: DailyTelegraph

Ms Quillity relocated from the south coast to Sydney where she thought there would be more opportunity, and is desperate to find a job.

“I’m 53, I’m still a long way from retirement, I’m still needing work,” she says.

“I guess younger candidates might look better in suits, they might communicate better and it is competitive, but us older workers have a stronger work ethic. Especially in care professions, we really care.”

CEO of the Heat Group, the company that conducted the study, Gillian Franklin, says she was not surprised by the results, and thought the Treasurer’s suggestion older women needed to be encouraged to stay in the workforce was off the mark.

“That is a huge challenge. It’s not because women don’t want to work, it’s not because older people don’t want to work, but because employers discriminate against them,” she says.

“I was disappointed that the number is still as high. We’re aware that women believe they are discriminated against in the workplace because of their age and appearance, but employers should value experience of both older and younger workers to bring diversity to the workplace.”

Date:  March 3, 2015 

Joe Hockey

To safeguard our way of life, we must keep people in jobs and the economy growing.

Older workers have expertise based on years of experience and make an important contribution to the economy.

Older workers have expertise based on years of experience and make an important contribution to the economy. Photo: James Alcock

I suspect if you were to ask many of those in their late 40s and older if ageism could hold Australia back, their answer would be “yes”. That disappointing view would invariably be based on their personal experiences in the workforce.

 Ageism will hold us back because, with an ageing population, we need to increase participation by older  workers in the workforce.The evidence over recent decades indicates older people are underemployed for longer periods than younger workers.  Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show more than 35 per cent of jobseekers aged 55 and over stopped looking for work because they believed potential employers thought they were too old.

As a society, we are discarding valuable older workers far too early. 

These older  people excluded from the workforce account for more than half the total number of jobseekers who gave up looking for work.

Older workers face ageist stereotypes and biases, especially in the workplace and in recruitment. These negative attitudes label them as too costly, too inflexible and too difficult to train.  As a society, we are discarding valuable older workers far too early.

To safeguard our way of life, we must maintain our incomes and keep people in jobs. In short, we need to keep the economy growing. One of the key drivers of long-term growth is widely recognised as having more people in the workforce.

Unfortunately, if we do not adjust our approach, the long-term outlook for Australia is lower economic growth. Why? Because our population and our economy are changing and that will impact heavily on our workforce participation.

 The government will soon launch the 2015 intergenerational report. The report is the most comprehensive examination of demography and current policy. It evaluates how these changes will affect the economy and government finances over the next 40 years.

 It will show there will be fewer people of traditional working age as a proportion of the population in the years to come. Over the next decade, the working population is expected to increase by 12 per cent, while the population over 65 is expected to increase by 36 per cent. That is, the number of people aged over 65 will grow three times faster than the traditional working-age population.

The number of people in the traditional workforce supporting those who have left the workforce will nearly halve over the next 40 years.

On the one hand, this a problem, because as the population ages and more people leave the workforce, tax revenues will struggle to fund the same level of government services we enjoy today. On the other hand, this is an opportunity to encourage greater workforce participation, especially among underappreciated and underutilised older people.

We must not fall into the trap of viewing an ageing population as a burden. Older  people will be critical to maintaining the economic growth that has underpinned the advances in our standards of living and quality of life.

According to the age discrimination commissioner: “As a society, we have been slow to recognise that millions of older Australians are locked out of the workforce by age discrimination. We are only now starting to understand what a terrible waste of human capital this situation represents; a loss to the national economy and to businesses large and small, and a loss to the individual who is pushed out of the workforce prematurely.”

Deloitte Access Economics estimates a 3 per cent increase in participation by the over 55s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy. A 5 per cent increase in participation, would see a $48 billion boost to the economy.

If Australia’s workforce participation rate for those aged over 65 increased to that of New Zealand over the next  10 years, this would result in a boost to Australia’s real gross domestic product of about $40 billion in 2024-25.

Older workers  contribute knowledge and skills based on years of experience and expertise. We need older  people working and contributing to our economic growth.

 Also, people who work longer accrue more superannuation savings and are less reliant on the pension during retirement.

There is a strong correlation between workforce participation and health status. Continuing to work  protects against physical ill-health and poor mental health. Data shows people staying in the workforce past retirement age tend to have better health compared with those not working.

Older workers also report the need for flexibility in their working hours or part-time arrangements so they can fit in caring responsibilities or manage sickness or disability.

The decline in participation rates of older workers only aggravates the problem of age dependency and rising social expenditures. Ignoring a pool of productive workers in the face of a falling participation rate will affect our economic growth.

If these trends continue, we as a society will be contributing to a decline in our standard of living. So let’s reverse the traditional attitudes, embrace a longer life and look for ways to redesign our lives so we can enjoy prosperity along the way.

Joe Hockey is the federal Treasurer.

 

Barclay's bank
Dominic Lipinski—PA Wire/Press Association Images

More companies are recognizing the value of mature workers—and they’re starting to hire them.

Things are finally looking up for older workers.

The latest data show the unemployment rate for those over age 55 stands at just 4.1%, compared with 5.7% for the total population and a steep 18.8% for teens. The ranks of the long-term unemployed, which ballooned during the recession as mature workers lost their jobs, are coming down. Age-discrimination charges have fallen for six consecutive years. And now, as the job market lurches back to life, more companies are wooing the silver set with formal retraining programs.

This is not to say that older workers have it easy. Overall, the long-term unemployment rate remains stubbornly high—31.5%. And even though age-discrimination charges have declined they remain at peak pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, critics note that some corporate re-entry programs are not a great deal, paying little or no salary and distracting workers from seeking full-time gainful employment.

Still, the big picture is one of improving opportunity for workers past age 50. That’s welcome news for many reasons, not least is that those who lose their job past age 58 are at greater health risk and, on average, lose three years of life expectancy. Meanwhile, older workers are a bigger piece of the labor force. Two decades ago, less than a third of people age 55 and over were employed or looking for work. Today, the share is 40%, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

AARP and others have long argued that older workers are reliable, flexible, experienced and possess valuable institutional knowledge. Increasingly, employers seem to want these traits.

This spring, the global bank Barclays will expand its apprenticeship program and begin looking at candidates past age 50. The bank will consider mature workers from unrelated fields, saying the only experience they need is practical experience. The bank says this is no PR stunt; it values older workers who have life experience and can better relate to customers seeking a mortgage or auto loan. With training, the bank believes they would make good, full-time, fairly compensated loan officers.

Already, Barclays has a team of tech-savvy older workers in place to help mature customers with online banking. The new apprenticeship program builds on this effort to capitalize on the life skills of experienced employees.

Others have tiptoed into this space. Goldman Sachs started a “returnship” in the throes of the recession. But the program is only a 10-week retraining exercise, with competitive pay, and highly selective. About 2% of applicants get accepted. It is not designed as a gateway to full-time employment at Goldman, though some older interns end up with job offers at the bank.

The nonprofit Encore.com offers mature workers a one-yearfellowship, typically in a professional capacity at another nonprofit, to help mature workers re-enter the job market. Again, this is a temporary arrangement and pays just $25,000.

But a growing number of organizations—the National Institutes of Health, Stanley Consultants, and Michelin North America, amongmany others—embrace a seasoned workforce and have programs designed to attract and keep workers past 50. Companies with internship programs for older workers include PwC, Regeneron, Harvard Business School, MetLife and McKinsey.

Source:  Money