Posts Tagged “mature age”

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 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


Susan Ryan

Was I the only person in Australia who congratulated Treasurer Joe Hockey on his observation that the first person to live to 150 might already be born?

Not only have medical scientists confirmed the comment, the shock value of contemplating our 150th birthdays should have had all economists, employers, business chiefs and mid-age individuals  focusing seriously on how to extend the working life of most Australians. Moving towards a stage where 70 rather than 60 becomes the average retirement age is what our economy needs, and what older people themselves are often seeking.

Health experts constantly remind us that the working older person is healthier than the non-working older person, and happier. These realities should provide a constructive context for the appearance of the Intergenerational Report. The IGRs, and we are up to our fourth, set out the long-term budget implications of ever-rising numbers of individuals living for more years on the age pension and public health, over a period where the proportion of the working population younger than 65 is declining.

The expenditures as predicted are unsustainable, but they are not inevitable. Obvious and realistic policy change would pull the figures into better balance, into “sustainability”. The objective of changing the ratios by increasing the numbers of older workers should be in this conversation from the beginning.

With past IGRs, positive policy opportunities have been drowned by waves of negativity about the unadorned outlook figures. The last Intergenerational Report spoke only of the “risks” and “challenges” of our ageing population, and the dramatic reduction of the proportion of those of working age to support those older than 65. It highlighted the pressures on health spending in relation to the ageing population.

It implied and was widely interpreted as insisting that all those older than 65 are in need of substantial and growing public support. It set up a dichotomy between younger/older as good/bad. It implied that ageing only meant illness, decline and burdening the public purse. The economic potential of older people was ignored. This approach perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes of older people and obstructs the development of a policy approach where younger and older generations can work co-operatively.

Why are individuals leaving paid work at 60, or often earlier, rather than 70? Even if they are more likely to live to 100 instead of 150, four decades without earned income and the satisfaction of work is too many. Age discrimination in employment is a huge barrier preventing older Australians from continuing in the workforce. One in five unemployed people older than 45 report that their main difficulty in finding work is that they are considered too old by employers. We know that one in 10 business respondents have an age above which they will not recruit – the average age is 50 years.

We also know that helping older people participate would boost our economy. Deloitte Access Economics research shows that increasing the number of Australians older than 55 in paid employment by 5% would result in a $48 billion impact on the national economy.

This can happen. The percentage of the people aged 55-64 in the workforce in Australia is 61.5 per cent, and has remained stable since 2012. Compare this to New Zealand, where the percentage is 74.4 per cent. Since 2012 Australia has dropped from 11th to 13th place for workforce participation of older workers among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  countries.

The longer people work, the more superannuation they will have. The IGR is an opportunity to review the longer-term effects of the current application of tax benefits for super.

Like other “too hard basket” changes, this policy should be brought out of the basket and included in the discussion. Tax-favoured superannuation was originally introduced so that more people could achieve independence in retirement. What is the public policy purpose of continuing the provision of substantial tax benefits well beyond the point where individuals have achieved the means to support a high standard of living in retirement? Might not those tax benefits be better redirected to those whose retirement savings fall well below an adequate standard and who have only the age pension in prospect?

Providing age pension benefits to increasing numbers of individuals who possess well in excess of the means for a very comfortable retirement might not be best practice in targeting welfare dollars. Requiring high-net-worth individuals to make a larger contribution to the costs of their aged care could be in the interests of improved fairness and efficiency and improved quality of care.

I hope the Treasurer’s release of the IGR data will bring into focus some realistic and purposeful discussion around these policy directions.

I see this Intergenerational Report as an important opportunity to present what could happen if we stopped age discrimination and increased the participation of older workers. Rather than emphasising doom, gloom and negative stereotypes, I urge the Treasurer to show what would happen if we mitigated the worst-case scenario by leading the world in employment practices that embrace fairness and improved opportunity for older workers through flexibility, retraining, and intergenerational initiatives.

We all understand the population is ageing. Surely now we are ready to have a conversation about how to realise the economic and social potential this longevity represents.

Susan Ryan is Age Discrimination Commissioner.

Source:  SMH


Tuesday, 24 February 2015
50 is the new 40: Why SMEs should consider an older workforce

We all understand the population is ageing, and while comments by treasurer Joe Hockey that the first person to live to 150 may have already been born attracted some derision, it should come as no surprise. What is less easy to understand is the curious paradox that, as the workforce ages, the age at which workers are being labelled by organisations and recruiters as “old” is getting younger.

The way that many organisations and those recruiting for organisations construct old age is very different to the way that the authors of the soon-to-be-released Intergenerational Report are likely to construct older age. Our research into the management of age in organisations has found overwhelmingly that employees over the age of 45 self-identify as older. Further, there is a general sense amongst organisational decision makers that if you haven’t “made it” by the age of 40 you aren’t going to “make it” at all.

Declaring that you must have made it by 40 not only ignores the huge potential of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, but it also doesn’t account for the fact that many women and men are ready to hit their stride in their 50s. Relieved of the heavy lifting responsibilities of parenting, they are able to devote themselves to their careers and to their employers.

Some companies have managed to see this potential and are beginning to think creatively about what having an older workforce profile means and how they can leverage its opportunities for increased productivity and innovation.
The advent of the corporation in the early and mid-twentieth century created a prototypical career/life cycle in which youth meant education, adulthood meant work and old age meant retirement. This may have served bureaucratic corporations of the past because it provided order and calculability to those who passed through it.

However, it is an out-dated way of thinking for the modern corporation Much of the discourse in the lead-up to the release of the Intergenerational Report pits old against young. Older people are constructed as an economic burden and younger people as resentful and angry. Yet our research into intergenerational relations in organisations found high levels of respect between younger and older people.

In particular, we found that younger employees greatly respected the knowledge and resilience that their older co-workers brought to their work. As the workforce ages and people stay in work longer, there is a huge opportunity to capitalise on the diversity of ideas, customer segments and product markets that an intergenerational workforce can open up to an organisation. Our research with a global engineering firm showed that the most innovative divisions were the ones in which teams were configured to include a broad range of ages, from new graduates to experienced workers over the age of 65. Respondents reporting learning from one another, and the shared experience flowed both ways. In these teams, the notion of experience wasn’t limited to time served, nor was it seen to expire once people had reached a certain age.

Words do matter. The way that we talk about age in organisations affects both internal employee engagement and also recruitment strategies. Those older and younger than the magic age of 35 to 45 often receive an unintended but powerful message that they have less to contribute to the organisation, and report lower levels of workplace engagement as a result. The language organisations use in their general marketing and specifically in their recruitment can send unintended signals that those over 45 need not apply.

One organisation we worked with wanted to recruit people 45 and older but was having trouble attracting candidates. We could show them that the wording of their job advertisements, “join a vibrant team that works hard and plays hard” and “working space is fresh and funky” was unintentionally signalling that older candidates were not welcome. We encouraged them to highlight aspects of the job that are most important to older workers: recognition of skills, work and life experience; the culture and values of the organisation; and the opportunity to learn new things. This last one is important because it is perhaps the most pervasive yet blatantly false stereotype about ageing. We don’t stop wanting to learn new things as we age.

If the fourth Intergenerational Report is to have the impact that the government, policy makers and employees of all ages are hoping it will, then it is business that needs to take the lead in re-imagining careers, shifting to an age-inclusive culture and establishing the organisational structures whereby employees of all generations can work with, for and alongside one another. Our prosperity and productivity as a nation relies on it.

Source:  SmartCompany 

Date:  February 21, 2015 
Ross Gittins

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.

The trouble with the way the media report developments in the labour market from one month to the next is that we don’t get a sense of the major shifts that occur over time.

So today let’s take a much longer view, examining the trends over, say, the two decades from 1993 to 2013. We’ll do so with help from an article by Professors Roger Wilkins and Mark Wooden, of the Melbourne Institute, published in the latest issue of the Australian Economic Review.

Note that this period covers most of the continuous economic upswing since the severe recession of the early 1990s. So most of the trends are reasonably good. It’s true, however, that we were knocked off track briefly by the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and in more recent years have suffered a slow deterioration in unemployment as the economy makes heavy weather of the end of the mining investment boom.

But that’s getting ahead of the story. Actually, it’s such a long story that today I’ll limit it to the side that gets least attention from the media, changes in the supply of labour. It’s best measured by changes in the “participation rate” – the proportion of the population of working age who are participating in the labour market by making their labour available, either by having a job or actively seeking one.

Taken overall, the “part rate” increased pretty strongly until 2008, when it began falling back. But all of this overall increase is explained by the increased participation of women, particularly those of prime age, 25 to 54.

There’s been a long-term slow decline in the participation of men. It’s explained partly by young males staying longer in the education system but mainly by older workers retiring earlier – voluntarily or otherwise.

But here’s where the story gets complicated. The trend to earlier retirement turned around at about the turn of the century, with participation by both men and women aged 55 and over rising significantly.

Got that? Now try this. Although more people are retiring later, the part rate reached a peak in 2008, has fallen since then and is likely to continue falling for years yet. Why? Because of the ageing of the population.

The trick is that even if the part rate is now rising in older age groups, population ageing means that an ever-rising proportion of the labour force is in those older age groups, whose rates of participation will always be a lot lower than the rates for people of prime age.

To show the significance of this ageing effect, the authors calculate that if the age structure of the population in 2013 was the same as in 1993, the overall part rate would be 2.2 percentage points higher than it actually is.

However, we do have some scope to moderate this demography-driven decline in participation. Wilkins and Wooden note that the rates of participation for 55 to 64-year-olds are between 7 and 14 percentage points higher in New Zealand than they are in Oz. If the Kiwis can do it, what’s to stop us doing it?

The part rate covers the quantity of people willing to supply their labour, but there’s also the question of changes in the quality of the labour being supplied.

The past 20 years have seen a big improvement in the skills – education and training – of the labour force, with the proportion of university graduates more than doubling from 12 per cent to 28 per cent. The proportion with any post-secondary qualification rose from less than 46 per cent to more than 62 per cent.

By the way, it’s likely that the continuing rise in women’s participation is largely explained by the dramatic increase in females’ academic attainment. The higher men and women’s level of education, the greater the likelihood they’ll be in the labour force – exploiting the commercial value of their skills – and the less the likelihood of them being unemployed.

Of course, another part of the labour supply story is immigrant workers. Immigration has long been a major source of additional labour and today accounts for more than a fifth of the labour force. What’s changed is that throughout the last century most migrants came on permanent visas, whereas today most come on temporary visas.

In March last year there were almost 900,000 people on temporary visas with work rights, including more than 200,000 on “457 visas” for skilled people and about 370,000 on student visas. If all these people actually participated they’d amount to 7 per cent of the labour force, the authors estimate.

Separate to this were almost 650,000 people on the special visas for New Zealanders, some of whom will prove to be only temporary residents. (Don’t forget Aussies have reciprocal rights to work in Kiwiland.)

We now grant about 125,000 457 visas a year and about 100,000 student visas a year. This compares with about 130,000 old-style permanent visas a year to skilled immigrants, many of which are given to people already here on temporary visas.

The authors observe that the shift towards temporary migration has probably had a big effect on the labour market.

“The availability of a flexible skilled immigrant workforce that can respond to changes in labour demand relatively quickly is likely to have improved the operation of the labour market, especially from an employer perspective,” they say.

Oh. Yes. To me the main drawback is not so much that employers may not try hard enough to find local workers to fill jobs, or that the availability of this external supply may limit to some extent the rise in skilled wages, but that it reduces employers’ incentive go to the bother of training young workers.

Still, we mustn’t forget that, these days, the economy is run for the benefit of business, not the rest of us.

Ross Gittins is the economics editor. Twitter: @1RossGittins

Source:  Sydney Morning Herald

Read more:

jobless stock
 ‘The issue for the 800,000 people currently unemployed should be more about the policy response and not politics.’ Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

The new year has kicked off on a sour note for the economy with the unemployment rate jumping to 6.4%, the highest in 12 years.

For the past decade, Australia got used to having the unemployment rate around 5%, plus or minus a percentage point, depending on the nature of the positive and negative shocks that hit the economy and the policy response to those shocks.

The gurus at the Reserve Bank of Australia and treasury expect the unemployment rate to rise in the near terms and stay above 6% for several more years, even though interest rates are at record lows and the Australian dollar has fallen by 30% over the past three years.

The causes of the recent spike in the unemployment rate must be understood if it is to ever fall back to 5% or less.

In very broad terms, there are two important determinants of the unemployment rate: the pace of economic growth and wages. There are other drivers including education, skills, demographics, social welfare, but these are more medium-term issues that have probably not been significant factors behind the recent bad news on unemployment.

It is difficult to make a case that it is wages or labour market inflexibility that is behind the recent jump in unemployment. Wages growth has slowed markedly, to levels not seen for at least 40 years. The labour market, through these miserably low levels of wages growth, is adjusting to changing circumstances. In time, these flat or falling real wages will mean demand for labour will be higher than if wages growth was stronger. What is more, unit labour costs are actually falling, which is evidence that employers are not finding wages costs to be a major factor when it comes to hiring new staff.

The problem for unemployment is quite obviously the pace of economic growth. There is simply not enough economic activity in the economy to stop a significant part of the increase in population growth going straight into unemployment rather than being taken up in employment.

Given the mix of population growth, productivity and the composition of the Australian economy, annual real GDP growth needs to be maintained at around 3.25% for there to be enough jobs created to keep the unemployment rate steady. This is what many refer to as the long-run trend growth rate for Australia.

When the December quarter 2014 national accounts are released in early March, they will confirm that real GDP growth has been below 3.25% for nine consecutive quarters (over two years) and in that time has averaged just 2.4%. In other words, for those two years, the economy has fallen around 0.75% short a year of the growth rate needed to keep the unemployment rate steady, let alone push it lower. It is no surprise given this weak economic performance that the unemployment rate has risen by more than 1 percentage point.

The solution, it should be obvious, is to have in place policies that will fire up the economy so that GDP growth can be at least 3.5% for a couple of years so that the unemployment rate can fall back.

The RBA is doing its bit, cutting interest rates to record lows, but is mindful of having monetary policy inflating unwelcome house price gains.

With the budget three months away and the labour market weakness now entrenched, the case for job-creating fiscal stimulus should be considered. The treasurer, Joe Hockey, is speaking of bringing forward expenditure on infrastructure projects, which history shows is cumbersome and slow to deliver the economic growth needed to make a meaning impact on employment. There is also discussion about tax cuts for small business which, again, are long-run issues and unlikely to be implemented before July, a point when the unemployment rate is likely to be 6.75%.

Of course, if the Abbott government were to consider any other stimulus measures, it would be breaking more promises as, by definition, stimulus measures mean a larger budget deficit and higher levels of government debt. The Coalition was swept to power in 2013 on a promise to return the budget to surplus and reduce government debt.

The issue for the 800,000 people currently unemployed should be more about the policy response and not politics. If politics win out and the policy settings err on the side of moving the budget towards surplus and cutting government debt, it is likely that by the time of the next election in the second half of next year, there will be more than 900,000 unemployed. This is not the sort of legacy that in the heat of an election campaign would be easy to defend.

Stephen Koukoulas is a research fellow at Per Capita, a progressive thinktank.


Source:  The Guardian

Evidence of discrimination against older workers at Centennial Coal will be presented to the Senate Economic References Committee for the Inquiry into the Privatisation of State and Territory Assets and New Infrastructure in Sydney, today.

(Image on the right) Catherine Bolger and Belinda Giblin, Collieries Staff and Officers Association standing behind Same Dastyari and Jacquie Lambie at today’s Senate Inquiry.

IMG_0404The Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association (CSOA) will present evidence that shows the negative impact privatisation has had on local jobs and older workers, particularly in rural and regional communities.

Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association Director Catherine Bolger said the experience of workers at Centennial Coal, brought into “sharp focus the implications and problems that stem from privatisation”.

In 2006 the former State-owned Powercoal mines were bought by Centennial Coal (owned by Banpu, a Thai company). Centennial have denied full redundancy entitlements to employees close to and over 60 years of age, on the basis of their age.

Ms Bolger said, “Centennial is the only company in the coal mining industry that denies full redundancy entitlements to employees based on age.

“There is an obvious conflict between Government policy and what this company is doing. On one hand, the Federal Government is telling people that they need to work to age 65 for the benefit of the country. Yet, on the other hand, Centennial Coal is denying workers their entitlements because they are over 60 and forcing them to access their superannuation early.

“These workers will have smaller superannuation, exhaust savings earlier and will need to rely on Government assistance – all of which is the opposite of what the country needs.

“In rural and regional areas, privatisation has reduced the number of jobs, particularly for older workers. These workers are the human collateral of privatisation and this situation is important evidence for the Senate Inquiry to hear,” said Ms Bolger.

“In the case of Centennial Coal, privatisation has resulted in its profits leaving Australia and its workers being discriminated against. Last year Centennial reported $213 million in profits, at the same time their older workers face a poor old age.

Centennial Coal workers affected by the discrimination are owed between 30 to 56 weeks salary, many having worked for the company for over 30 years.

“The experiences of these workers show the long-term and devastating impact of privatisation can have on individuals, but more broadly, these experiences impact rural and regional communities and their economies.

“We are calling for a review into the effects of privatisation on older workers and rural and regional communities, to ensure no-one else has to go through what these workers and their families have gone through.

“It is absolutely essential that the long-term effects of privatisation are understood and mitigated before any decision to sell assets is made,” said Ms Bolger.


Source:  Professionals Australia

Good news behind bad jobs numbers

Good news behind bad jobs numbers

AUSTRALIA’S unemployment rate has risen to the highest level in more than 12 years, as the ranks of the unemployed swell to almost 800,000 for the first time since 1994, putting another interest rate cut firmly on the agenda.

The Australian dollar shed more than half a US cent to US76.55c immediately after the data became public at 11:30am (AEDT).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed the country’s jobless rate had jumped from 6.1 per cent to 6.4 per cent between December and January, giving Australia the second highest unemployment rate in the English speaking world.

The surprise rise in the jobless rate follows a more optimistic set of number in the final three months of 2014, which witnessed an extra 100,000 jobs, and will boost the probability of a further interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank when it considers their level early next month.

Market expectations of an official rate cut in March rose above 60 per cent, from below 50 per cent, after the figures were released.

A fall in full-time jobs of more than 28,000 was partly offset by a smaller rise in part-time work between December and January, leaving total employment 12,200 lower across Australia at 11.67 million.

Economists had expected an overall fall of 5000.

The participation rate — the share of working page Australians in or looking for work — remained steady at 64.8 per cent.

It will be disappointing news for the Abbott government, which will need employment to grow by an average of more than 18,000 a month to meet its promise to oversee 1 million new jobs by 2018.

The unemployment was last as high as 6.4 per cent in August, 2002. The unemployment rate in the UK is 5.9 per cent, 5.7 per cent in the US, and 5.6 per cent in New Zealand. It is 6.6 per cent in Canada.

Among the 795,000 people who were unemployed in January, more than 550,000 are looking for full-time work.

The Reserve Bank cut official interest rates to an new record low of 2.25 per cent earlier this month, in part because of concerns the unemployment rate would stay higher for longer than it had expected.

In December 1994 the number of unemployed fell below 800,000 as the economy emerged from the early 1990s recession.

The ABS said the last time the unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage points or more was in September 2012, although on average an increase of this magnitude occurs once every 12 months.

The figures were not affected by recent changes in the ABS employment survey, although usual volatility could have contributed to the increase in the jobless rate, the ABS said.

Source:  The Australian

Businesses encouraged to look closely at recruitment or miss out on valuable knowledge and experience

Grey matter: Older workers have invaluable experience and knowledge

Grey matter: Older workers have invaluable experience and knowledge

Older workers looking for work are often alienated by outdated hiring practices, according to employment minister Esther McVey.

McVey was commenting on a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) report in which one-third of employers admit they should be doing more to provide opportunities for older workers.

The survey of 200 UK employers also suggests that 37% cite advertising as a hurdle to attracting workers over 55-years-old.

One in five employers said that the language used in recruitment campaigns should be inclusive for all age groups – while 17% said that organisations should look beyond solely advertising online to ensure candidates of all generations are reached.

McVey commented that more and more older workers are now looking for a new challenge in employment – and that “they have a hugely valuable contribution to make to any workforce.”

“Despite the recent impressive trends in those over 50 getting back into work, older workers still in many cases face outdated stereotypes when it comes to business hiring practices,” she said.

“Not only is this a waste of valuable talent and ‘life skills’, but it’s a missed opportunity for businesses to make their most of their experience to support younger colleagues develop their careers.”

DWP business champion for older workers Dr Ros Altmann added that it is vital for the economy that people living longer and wanting to work are given the opportunity to do so.

“Businesses need to act now in order to benefit from the extensive skills and experience that older workers bring. It is important not to rule out older applicants when recruiting new talent,” she said.

“In March I will publish evidence of the business case for retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers. As today’s survey shows, ongoing training and ensuring all workers have up-to-date skills will also be vital to make sure older people are not overlooked in the recruitment process.”

Finally REC chief executive Kevin Green suggested focusing on older workers could be one way to address the UK’s burgeoning skills crisis.

“Simple changes to the language used in job descriptions and the way jobs are advertised could be significant,” he said. “We encourage hirers to work alongside specialist recruiters who understand the benefits that older workers can bring, and who can help tailor job roles to meet their needs.”

– See more at:

Focus groups show voters understand that demographic change requires policy change, but the Coalition and Labor should proceed with extreme caution

elderly couple
 Focus groups have expressed deep concern about the government’s policies to deal with an ageing population. Photograph: Alamy

The ageing population is cited by the Abbott government as the driver of many policy changes, including health cuts and tax reform.

But focus groups conducted across the country by the Ipsos Mind and Mood survey have a clear message for legislators. Voters understand that demographic change requires policy change, but politicians should proceed with extreme caution.

The survey “Our Ageing Population” found Australians are very worried about the issue and deeply concerned that governments haven’t got policy right.

“They are concerned about the broad-reaching implications for the nation’s housing, employment and healthcare sectors … Perceptions that the federal government is not introducing policies which will address these perceived problems only serves to heighten anxiety about Australia’s future in the face of this important demographic shift,” the survey concludes.

Most recently treasurer Joe Hockey raised the possibility of humans living to 150 as he foreshadowed a “deep conversation with the Australian people” about ageing after the government releases the latest intergenerational report. And the ageing population is also cited as a reason the government needs to cut spending on healthcare.

“The idea that health has to be cut to support the ageing population frightens people because they think the system is under immense pressure already and they can’t see how more can be taken away, and in regional Australia they feel especially under-serviced,” said Dorothy Dudley, director of the Mind and Mood report.

And while some respondents were prepared to accept the Abbott government’s $7 Medicare copayment (the policy that was on the table at the time of the surveys) they were suspicious that it would lead to even higher payments and a “US-style system” where healthcare became unaffordable.

The report includes quotes from focus group participants on the subject.

  • “I don’t personally have a problem with the $7 co-payment, I’m happy for my taxes to go towards healthcare even if I’m not sick, it’s certainly better than a lot of other things.”
  • “We have one of the best systems in the world. If there’s no money, then put up the levy for the majority but don’t slug pensioners with a co-payment. It’s not just the visit to the doctor. It’s pathology, then their medication. It really adds up. The vast majority of people don’t abuse it, but people get sick all the time. If you discourage people from going to the doctor they’ll get chronically sick and it will cost more.
  • “They won’t just stop at $7 it’ll just keep going up, it gets to become like the US where you could be bleeding out of your head and they refuse to see you. But that’s where we’re headed. We’re not caring as much.”

Respondents were equally anxious about the plan to raise the pension eligibility age to 70 – a policy that applies to those born after 1965 – and generally worried at the prospect that the pension would become less generous but that they would be unable to continue to work.

“The Coalition government’s plans to increase the age pension eligibility age to 70 by 2035 created much discussion,” the report said. “The fact that the age pension is so strongly linked with the concept of retirement was evidenced by many participants confusing the ‘pension eligibility age’ with a ‘retirement age’, although an official retirement age does not exist in Australia.”

It recorded comments from respondents like this:

  • “We’re up in arms about the retirement age.”
  • “The goal posts are constantly moving.”
  • “Raising the retirement age is just weird. It would suck if you got to a point where you can’t keep going and it’s like ‘you have to work another five years’.”
  • “The retirement age thing, that must depend on your occupation.”
  • “Tony [Abbott] needs to come out here [to regional NSW] and see what it feels like to pick a tonne of apples every day. What your joints feel like at the end of the day. See if thinks he could do it till he’s 70.”
  • “The 70 age limit is problematic. Not everyone can do that, not if they have a really physical job. It’s got to be flexible. If you’re a tiler or a bricklayer, your body can’t just keep doing that. You’re lucky if you last to 65.”

The government has ruled out unexpected changes to superannuation this term, but will include superannuation tax breaks in its “root and branch” review of the taxation system,

But according to the report there is “also a deal of anxiety about gaining access to superannuation with a perception that the superannuation goalposts were continually changing”.

It found that “across the board, fingers were pointing at the government who many participants felt had not really fully addressed the challenges they foresaw”.

  • “Government needs to be creative, not so tunnel-visioned. They’ve got to think. What if that was my mum, my dad? What would they need?”
  • “What measures are our leaders putting in today to help us to make sure it doesn’t happen? I’m not feeling very comfortable with anything really, are you?”
  • “There used to be a difference between Labor and Liberal and now they’re the same. I’m also cynical about everything in our society. It’s all driven by the bottom line. Acts of goodwill, not for money, are pretty rare.”

Source:  The Guardian