Posts Tagged “older workers”

If Australia increased the number of older workers it could return $78 billion a year to the economy.

Australia is lagging while New Zealand soars ahead in attracting and retaining older employees in the workforce, costing an estimated $72 billion a year.

According to the PwC Golden Age Index, if Australia’s employment rates for workers aged more than 55 years old were increased to Swedish levels the nation’s gross domestic product could be about 4.7 per cent higher, equivalent to about $78 billion annually.

The biggest potential impact on GDP comes from those in the 55‑64 years old age group.

The report, which relies on the most recent data from 2014, found Iceland was ranked as the best OECD nation when it comes to keeping older workers employed, for the fourth consecutive time since 2003.

However, New Zealand has seen a rapid transformation, moving from ninth place in 2003 to second in 2014.

Israel, Germany and New Zealand saw the biggest improvement in the rankings between 2003 and 2014.
Australia, which was ranked 20th in 2003 has moved to 16th place in 2014, dropping back on the 2013 ranking of 15th.

Australia was ranked sixth when it came to the proportion of older workers in part-time employment.

But when it came to full-time earnings of 55-64 year-olds relative to 25-54 year-olds Australia performs relatively poorly, falling into the lowest third of countries.

PwC national economics and policy consulting partner Jeremy Thorpe said Australia had been slower than it needed to be to act on encouraging older workers to remain in the labour force.

He said it would take at least 10 years for the $78 billion of extra GDP to come to fruition.

“It’s not a figure we’d be able to achieve tomorrow because we’d have to raise our participation,” he said.

“Once we transition and improve that’s the outcome we could achieve. I don’t think we can turn the tap tomorrow. It’s at least a 10-year exercise. Unless you’re continually on a path of improvement, I don’t think any of this comes quickly. ”

Mr Thorpe said that, although politically-sensitive, Australia had been “slower than it needed to” in pushing the eligibility age out for the aged pension.

“Where we haven’t been proactive is around improving access to employment,” he said.

“From a government perspective there have been ‘toes in the water’ around these schemes. And industry need to make the change as well and understand they will suffer skills shortages as the population changes and it will be the one suffering if nothing changes.”

Last year’s intergenerational report predicts will be 2.7 people aged between 15 and 64 for every person aged 65 and over in 2055, compared with 4.5 at present and 7.3 in 1975.

Because of this, the number of workers over the age of 65 years will rise to 17.3 per cent, up from 12.9 per cent today.

With age and service pension, costs are expected to stabilise from 2.9 per cent of gross domestic product in 2014-2015 to 2.7 per cent in 2054-55

Mr Thorpe said when you looked at New Zealand it was because the country had looked at encouraging delaying retirement, improving employability of older workers and reducing barriers to employment.

The PwC report found the OECD could add about $2.6 trillion to its total GDP if economies with a lower full–time equivalent employment rate among people aged over 55 than Sweden increased their older worker employment rates to levels in Sweden, which is the best-performing EU country in the index.

When it came to Pacific countries, Australia performs poorly, ranking last out of New Zealand, the US, Korea, Japan and Canada.

Last week a report analysing Centrelink data by the University of Melbourne found since the pension age was raised to 65 women have worked for longer rather than trying to find other sources of welfare like the dole or disability pension.

There is a positive correlation with the PwC Young Workers Index, which suggests that the employment of older workers does not crowd out youth employment at the economy-wide level.

The report called on the federal government to introduce policy measures to encourage or facilitate later retirement, improve employability and reduce employment barriers.

“Policies could include pension reform and financial incentives to encourage working beyond national retirement ages, providing training throughout people’s working lives, and tightening regulation around labour market discrimination against older workers,” the report said.

Source: Australian Financial Review

Just as companies have shifted on the area of gender and race diversity in the workplace, they now need to change their mindset to encourage older workers to remain employed.
Australian companies need to adopt aged worker-friendly policies in order to survive and attract the best talent.

PwC’s The Golden Age Index report found businesses should look to adopt flexible working policies, such as “phased retirement”, or expanding training programs to encourage and support their older workforce.

“They should also take steps to achieve age diversity, for example through opening up apprenticeship schemes to older workers so that they can capitalise on their experience,” the report said.

PwC people and organisation partner Jon Williams said Australian companies had made gains on improving diversity in the workplace but needed a mindset change to implement policies to attract and retain older staff.

“Companies need to change workplace policies to allow people to work much more flexibly and they need to change culture,” Mr Williams said.

“We’ve moved on the diversity lens now we need to extend that to age.”

He said when blue collar jobs were automated the whole job was lost, but when it came to white collar roles only parts would be replaced.

“In the long term we’re going to need human skills, not computer skills, intuition and application of experience to solve social problems and that fits well into the older workforce’s skills, and unless we tap into these people we’re going to undercut our ability as a country.”

Mr Williams said there was no reason why older workers couldn’t be taught science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills but also the next wave of jobs in aged care would value older workers with life experience skills.

Companies such as electricity operator Transgrid are implementing plans to encourage older workers to remain employed.

The company undertakes strategic workforce planning each year to enable analysis of risks and fill gaps over the next five to 10 years.

It found a number of years ago there was an “age-cliff” as many engineers planned for retirement.

In response, the organisation brought on quite a number of graduates over a few years in preparation for transferring mid-career engineers into senior engineering roles.

Staff are also given other benefits including flexible work arrangements to phased retirement such as a condensed four-day week, a nine-day fortnight, 35-hour week, 15 per cent superannuation and personal leave of 18 days a year.

At Australia Post, 50 per cent of the workforce is over 45 years of age.

In 2010 the company introduced a policy whereby those over 53 years of age and with at least five years’ continuous service have been able to request flexible working arrangements in order to transition to retirement.

Employees may access their accrued long service leave or annual leave on a regular or patterned basis to maintain their salary.

With five generations in the workforce for the first time in its history, Westpac provides employees aged over 50 a “Prime of Life” program where they are given support to plan their next move, including transition to retirement.

Source: Australian Financial Review

9:06 am 15 June 2016

Max Towle, Employment Reporter – @maxbentleytowle

New Zealand has been ranked near the top of an international report judging how well it treats the growing number of people over-65 who are still working.

New Zealand is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers, said the report.New Zealand is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers, said the report.

A report by the financial company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows nearly 40 percent of New Zealanders are working until they are 70 and that number is rising.

Its report, ranking 34 OECD countries, puts New Zealand in second place in how it treats older workers, only behind Iceland.

In its own words, the country is “harnessing the economic power” of older workers.

As well as more over-65’s working, PwC said New Zealand had a great record for allowing them flexible conditions, and a relatively low gender pay gap.

It was also about their skills being better appreciated, said a partner for the company, Scott Mitchell.

“They are as useful, if not more, especially when they can be in a flexible working environment,” he said.

“Just because you become an aged worker, the mere fact you’ve got someone who’s been there and done that and has maturity – they can be fantastic coaches.”

The government’s statistics show of all over-65’s, one in five is working – that is expected to rise to one in three in 20 year’s time.

There are several reasons why older people keep working, said a co-director of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre at Auckland University, Susan St John.

“Among them of course is the problem of outliving savings and needing to provide extra because there’s a greater awareness that New Zealand’s Super scheme, while generous, isn’t enough for many people,” she said.

People should be judged on what they are able to do, rather than a ticking clock, said former All Blacks doctor and current chief medical officer for Sovereign, John Mayhew.

“There’s no evidence that work is bad for us, it may be better in fact. As long as someone is physically and mentally able to do the job they want to do and they enjoy it then carry on,” he said.

“For most of us there’s no magical cut-off at 65, I think we should push the retirement age up.”

PwC’s report also calls for the government to look at the retirement age, but Ms St John said just because more older people are working, it did not mean it should go up.

“That is a real can of worms because many people are not capable of staying in the workforce and raising the age puts them on a work benefit, for example,” she said.

The government has consistently batted away calls to lift the age, saying 65 is affordable.

Ms St John said it was worth noting statistics do not take into account older people who spend much of their time in unpaid caregiving roles – that could mean simply looking after grandchildren.


June 13, 2016 12:00am
Karen Brooks

Believing we’re all somehow professionally and socially redundant or our ability to adapt seizes once we reach 55 is ridiculous, depressing and offensive.
Reports emerged last week that managers at Gladstone Power Station (GPS) were intending to get rid of workers aged over 55 years because they were too old to meet “challenging changes.”

According to the bosses, keeping them would impact upon productivity. The reasons behind this “early retirement” plan were generally slammed, arousing deep concerns about attitudes towards older workers in broader social and cultural terms.

Whether or not GPS is justified in their decision from a business perspective or some employees are eager to take up the redundancy packages being offered, there’s something both cavalier and indifferent about the announcement. It indicates that age discrimination is not only alive and well, but in this instance, professionally endorsed.

The irony that GPS is singling out older workers for fear they may lack the requisite energy for a power plant appears to have bypassed management.

We know we’re all living longer — according to a Productivity Commission Report on ageing in Australia released in 2014, a female born in 2012 will live, on average, to 94.4 years while a male will live to an average 91.6 years.

The same report discussed the increase in pensionable age from 67 to 70 years, arguing it would boost participation rates in the workforce by 3-10 per cent.

But as columnist Susie O’Brien asks, “what’s the point of making older people work longer if there are no jobs for them to do?”


Before you continue reading: What’s your plan to keep over-55s in the workforce? We’ve had a number of great suggestions at My Big Idea — now share yours.

In the Chandler-McLeod white paper entitled Coming of Age: The Impact of an Ageing Workforce on Australian Business, published in 2013, it was noted that by 2044, 25 per cent of the population would be over 65 years. The importance of “grey workers” (a title so laden with negative connotations, it has to go) to productivity, how they display a strong work ethic and, importantly, possess a “growing financial imperative to do so following the blow to their savings during the GFC,” was also covered.

Age discrimination is alive and well.
Despite this, mature workers (depending which piece of legislation you read, anyone between 45-55 years) are under-represented in the workforce and “over presented in the joblessness rate.”

The paper also revealed something we instinctively know and the decision taken by the bosses at GPS has made overt: age discrimination is rampant.

Talk to many young workers, and they’ll tell you they are also discriminated against.

Damned if you’re young (lack experience; have a sense of entitlement); damned if you’re older (cost more, just cruising till retirement).

The safest place to be in terms of working age seems to be somewhere in the middle — probably around the ages of the GPS powerbrokers.

In other words, stereotypes and clichés about older workers (and younger) abound. Yet, it seems to me that when it comes to work, age shouldn’t really matter. Poor or great attitudes towards work, loyalty, skills-set, don’t fall into age brackets, but are individual. Experience, if the mind is open and willing, is something one accrues at any age.

Assuming older workers cannot embrace “challenging changes” actually beggars belief, considering they’ve probably lived and worked through more change than many of us can ever imagine.

While older workers may cost more to keep on the books, there are enormous benefits to managers in terms of output, skill and knowledge transfer and leadership development.
Yes, older workers do have to take responsibility for their careers, keep their skills relevant, and while many are reluctant to apply for jobs, they do have to pursue opportunities.

Believing we’re all somehow professionally and socially redundant or our ability to adapt seizes once we reach 55 is ridiculous, depressing and offensive.

But it’s no wonder so many view older people that way, particularly if they don’t know many mature folk in their personal or working lives — just look at the majority of representations of ageing in popular culture.

Advertisements for various insurance policies — from cars to funerals (aren’t they jolly!) feature grey-haired, smiling and often stupid older people asking simple questions and looking gloriously satisfied once they understand they can receive discounts or are still eligible for cover, as if they have no concerns but those.

Ageing celebrities, particularly women, are either mostly absent from our screens, have had so much cosmetic tweaking done (looking at you Sly Stallone), they’re parodies of their younger selves, or (with too few exceptions) feature in comic/curmudgeonly/dependent roles.

It’s easy to be glib about those over 55 when the box you tick on various surveys is well above it. We should heed Mark Twain, who wrote, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I mind that older people are being nudged out of the workforce before they’re ready, and think it really matters — not only in policy terms, but social and cultural ones as well.

Time to have a real conversation about this, before we get any older.

Source: News Corp Australia Network

Power station bosses to get rid of workers aged over 55 – because they are ‘too old to face challenging changes’

Bosses at Gladstone Power Station want to slash 20 per cent of their staff and will target older workers who might not be able to face ‘challenging changes’ ahead, The Courier Mail reported.
The cuts will see 46 of the 230-strong staff left without a job.
Workers at a powers station in Gladstone could face early retirement as the business structure is changed
Workers at a powers station in Gladstone could face early retirement as the business structure is changed
The move has been attacked for being from the ‘dark ages’ by National Seniors chief executive officer Michael O’Neill.
‘We have grave concerns … workers are being targeted based on their age … and it infers that older employees are inflexible and unable to learn new skills,’ Mr O’Neill said.
The power company has already lodged plans for their ‘early retirement’ scheme with the Australian Taxation office.
The company’s offer will see workers between 55 and 65 enter their retirement with 12 month’s pay.
‘The purpose of the scheme is to rationalise and reorganise Gladstone’s operations to meet their future business needs and increasing operational costs,’ the company told the tax office.
The company is offering workers over 55 early retirement and needs to shed 20 per cent of its workforce
The company is offering workers over 55 early retirement and needs to shed 20 per cent of its workforce
Craig Giddins from the Electrical Trades Union in Central Queensland said the company is replacing the older staff members because they cost more money.
‘I believe that the older workers have been targeted due to their high liability impact, they take longer to heal, age related sickness, bad backs, necks, limbs in general, cancer or other long term illness,’ Mr Giddins said.
The company has 129 workers over 50 on its books, 33 of those are over 60.
Workers born after 1965 must work until they are 70 years old, under the Turnbull government.
There are 129 workers over 50 at the station, and around 46 jobs to be cut

PUBLISHED: 01:34 EST, 10 June 2016

Source: Daily Mail

From July, companies can get bigger grants from the Government to redesign jobs for older workers, in a move to encourage re-employment as the population ages.

They can apply for up to $300,000 for projects that will make jobs easier, safer and smarter for workers aged 50 and older, an amount double the previous cap under the Job Redesign Grant.

A total of $66 million will be available to companies over three years under the enhanced WorkPro scheme, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) announced yesterday. The move comes ahead of legislation to raise the re-employment age ceiling from 65 to 67 in July next year.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say was at restaurant Lawry’s The Prime Rib yesterday. He praised it for being an “early adopter” of job redesign for older workers, ahead of legislation to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67 in July next year.

The agencies also said the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers had announced revised guidelines to keep up with the raised ceiling. It wants employers to give re-employed workers five-year contracts from age 62, up from three-year ones, where possible. Also, it is suggesting a bigger one-off payout of up to $13,000 to workers who are not re-employed.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said of the changes: “As our workforce continues to age, we are going to see more and more workers over 60 years old.”

They currently form 12 per cent of the resident labour force, or about 275,000, a sharp rise from 5.5 per cent 10 years ago.

The enhanced grants come under WorkPro, which was started in 2013 to foster progressive workplaces and boost local manpower.

The Enhanced WorkPro scheme aims to further encourage employers to create age-friendly workplaces, and is jointly developed by MOM, WDA, Singapore National Employers Federation and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Under its Job Redesign Grant,the previous cap was $150,000 for workers aged 40 and older. Under the Age Management Grant, employers can get up to $20,000 to put in place age-friendly work and hiring practices. But conditions have been stiffened: Companies must have at least five workers aged 50 and older, up from 40 and older, among others.

A new Job Redesign Rider will allow companies already on the Capability Development Grant and Inclusive Growth Programme for redesigning jobs to get additional funds for up to 80 per cent of project cost, or up to $20,000 per worker aged 50 and older, whichever is lower.

Mr Lim said the re-employment age cap of 67 is the next step to help older workers, “but it won’t be the final step”. He added: “We want our workers even beyond 67 to find workplaces where jobs are easier, safer and smarter for them.”

Welcoming the announcements, NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said: “We urge all companies to prepare and redesign their workplaces to one that is ageless, so that they are better positioned to tap the knowledge and experience of mature workers.”

Source: Singapore Times

May 31st, 2016

Just a few years ago, when unemployment hovered at 10%, employers had their pick of job candidates. Getting hired was tough. But now, with unemployment at 5%, it’s a candidates market.

That was just one piece of welcome news I heard last week while attending Indeed Interactive in Austin, Texas, an annual gathering of recruiting leaders and members of the media, eager to learn about the forces shaping the rapidly evolving labor market.

Since is the world’s No. 1 job site and the leading source of external online hires, it has a goldmine of job-related data. Combine that with Indeed’s proprietary research and you get a fascinating assessment of what’s happening in the job market and what you can likely expect in the near future.

2 Takeaways From a Global Labor Market Report

First, the big picture. At the conference, I picked up a copy of Indeed’s Labor Market Outlook 2016, which looked at 12 countries, and came away with two key takeaways: 1) There is a growing disparity between the highest and lowest wage earners due to the growing specialization of the labor force and 2) Tech jobs are hot and increasingly challenging to fill.

“Lots of jobs are disappearing as a result of technology and automation. Up to 50% of U.S. jobs may be at risk due to automation,” Tara Sinclair, Indeed’s chief economist, said at the conference. “But at the same time we see tons of jobs disappearing, millions more are appearing.” Two examples of emerging industries, according to Sinclair: fitness wearables and virtual learning. Along with tech, health care is the “massive elephant in the job creation space,” Sinclair noted.

Sinclair emphasized that job seekers need to adapt to the constantly changing landscape. That means they need to look for ways to apply their skills in fields other than the ones they’ve been in and be open to picking up new skills. She cited the growth of short-term coding schools as one way job hunters can quickly improve their marketability.

3 Bright Spots for 50+ Job Seekers and Workers

Sinclair urged the audience of recruiters to adapt as well. I found three of her recommendations to them especially encouraging for job seekers and workers who are 50+:

1. Offer more flexible work opportunities One way to attract and retain talented boomers, Sinclair said, is allowing them to work flexible hours (including part-time) and remotely. Interest in flexible work arrangements is on the rise. At Indeed, searches for them rose 42% from 2013 to 2015.

Incidentally, contrary to popular belief that part-time and remote jobs tend to be low paying, low skill work, over half of the top 50 keywords associated with searches for flexible work are related to high-skill jobs — many of them in the hard-to-fill tech and health care fields.

2. Consider job candidates without college degrees Sinclair admitted that as a college professor (she teaches at George Washington University), this was a tough recommendation to swallow. But she warned employers that it’s unlikely the pool of college-educated candidates will be large enough to fill job openings in the years ahead.

So if you’re looking for work but lack a college degree, you may soon have a better chance getting an employer’s interest.

3. Find ways to engage and retain older workers Referring to the coming “Baby Boomer Bomb” (aka “the brain drain” due to massive numbers of boomers who’ll retire), Sinclair told the audience: “You are facing a looming shortage of talent, particularly as the baby boomers retire. By 2020, workers age 55+ will likely account for 25% of the labor force. If you think of all those people leaving the work force, it’s likely to have all sorts of economic repercussions. But if you can find ways to engage the older workers and transfer their knowledge to the young, that’s how you can help increase the economic pie in new ways.”

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Nancy Collamer, Contributor

Source: Forbes

May 21, 2016

AGEISM is rampant in South Australia as employers consistently turn a blind eye to older workers trying to stay in, or re-enter, the workplace.

Experts say the discrimination is causing immense social, financial and health damage — in a state where about 25 per cent of the population is over 55.

The problems facing older people in the workforce were among the key issues to come out of a Sunday Mailspecial investigation into the state’s ageing population.

Anne Burgess, the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity SA, said examples of discrimination in the workforce were rife, including:

GIUSEPPE, a 67-year-old long-time IT company worker, being told: “You won’t be around much longer anyway.”

HOWARD, also 67, who has worked for a food industry company for 18 years. The company is trying to retire him on age grounds alone. He refused and his contract was changed from permanent to casual. This year he has been offered no pay rise when all employees under 65 have.

KENNETH, 74, who holds a general builder’s licence. A client is refusing to pay the full bill for a job, saying someone of his age would be a handyman only.

Ms Burgess said older people were telling her office that as they aged, they didn’t feel valued in the workplace.

“There is a case of a paternal feeling coming from some employers, it’s not really valuing older people. It’s very patronising,” she said.

“The worst cases are people aged over 45 who lose their jobs; they tell me they make application after application and as soon as they don’t put their birthdays down, they get an interview. There is not a short-term fix with age discrimination. It’s about people being more proactive about what skills they need.”

Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said too many older people did not enjoy the right to work.

She said the over-55s accounted for just 16 per cent of the workforce, and just 12.7 per cent of over-65s still worked.

“This sharp decline cannot be allowed to continue,” Ms Ryan said. “The number of over 65s will double by 2055 when life expectancy will be well over 90.”

Ms Ryan, who last month released a major report into workplace discrimination, said a 7 per cent increase in mature-age labour force participation would raise Australia’s GDP by about $25 billion within six years.

“We must ensure skilled older workers in sectors that are shrinking, such as car manufacturing or coal mining, are not forced into long-term unemployment. Access to effective skills training that will lead them into growth sectors is key,” she said.

She suggested mature-age apprenticeships could form a part of SA’s future shipbuilding and submarine jobs boom.

Council of the Ageing SA chief executive Jane Mussared agreed that older workers needed to be seen as an asset to employers.

“It’s a big community question; we need to challenge employers upfront and employ the same tactics the gender battle uses,” Ms Mussared said.

“Employers need to understand the mature workforce, what skill sets they offer. Australia needs a workforce that continues to adapt.”

Finding a way past old-fashioned attitudes, and employers who can be subtle in their contempt of older staff, was an immense task, Ms Mussared said.

“Blatant discrimination doesn’t always happen — it’s saying that they are over-qualified or recruiters not putting you forward when they tell you they are,” she said. But she warned that “in challenging it, you can gain a reputation as a troublemaker”, adding: “It’s difficult to deal with.”

Greg Goudie, chief executive of Dome (SA), a state-funded employment and training organisation for mature-age people, conducted a study last month of 500 unemployed people aged over 40.

“Fifty-six per cent felt they had been discriminated againstbecause of their age. Only 6 per cent found gender discrimination,” he said.

“We have made great strides around gender and race discrimination, but there is a lot more work to be done in age discrimination.”

Members of a Sunday Mail roundtable discussion agreed a lack of employment options was a major issue facing the state’s maturing population.

The roundtable of four retirees, aged in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, agreed that volunteering, a traditional stepping stone into the workforce, did not necessarily pave the way back into the workforce for older jobseekers.

Penelope McMillan, 59, of Para Hills, said most employers had a “younger demographic” in mind when hiring.

“The older workers I know tend to be employed by the same, small number of employers,” she said.

Source: The Advertiser

May 14, 2016

Viktoria Rother made a terrible miscalculation. When she took voluntary redundancy aged 45, the former customs officer felt certain that as an educated, single, child-free professional she would soon find full-time work.

But her lack of luck in the job market left her in despair. Finally a recruiter laid out the brutal truth. “She informed me frankly that most employers weren’t interested in people my age or older; they preferred to employ those under 40.”

“I lost hope of ever finding paid work again,” Ms Rother said.

Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan.
Age and disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryan. Photo: Rohan Thompson
After hearing countless stories like this, Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan is “enraged at the unfairness” that perfectly capable people in their 50s or younger are constantly being told they are “a bit long in the tooth for this job”.

​”It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their 50s may live up to another 40 years without paid employment,” said Ms Ryan.

Ongoing, systemic age and disability workforce discrimination is not only a massive drain on the economy but has devastating consequences for individuals, a national inquiry led by Ms Ryan has concluded.

Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past.
Roughly a quarter of the population are 55 and over but they make up only 16 per cent of the total workforce. Although 83.2 per cent of people without a disability participate in the workforce, only 53.4 per cent of people with a disability do.

Employment rates of people over 55 drop off sharply, to only 12.7 per cent for people over 65. But in the past decade, the number of people over 45 who say they won’t retire before 70 has risen dramatically, from 8 per cent to 23 per cent, the ABS reports. “They expect to, they want to, but will they find jobs?” Ms Ryan said.

Governments want people to work for longer to ease the looming pressure on the budget as the proportion of the population over 65 swells. It is feared the age pension and health systems, which older people will rely on for longer than ever as longevity increases, will become too expensive for the shrinking workforce to fund through taxes.

The inquiry found Australian labour force participation rates for older people and people with disability remain “far too low” and lag behind comparable OECD countries. Even with a 7 per cent increase in the mature age labour force participation rate we would lag behind New Zealand, but the boost to GDP in 2022 would be about 1.4 per cent, or $25 billion, says the Grattan Institute.

Every public service job in Australia should have flexible working conditions and targets for employing older workers and people with disabilities, the inquiry recommends. Private employers should have to publicly report progress on hiring older workers and those with disabilities, with the role of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to be expanded to monitor diversity. A national action plan should be developed and federal cabinet should include a minister for longevity, it recommends.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the report was a “very, very important body of work” and a “milestone in public policy making”. The recommendations would be considered, Senator Brandis said at the launch earlier this month.

The inquiry heard the same excuses for age and disability discrimination as were once commonly used to justify gender discrimination, “with no basis of evidence for the stereotype”, Ms Ryan said. These include that older people or people with disabilities are “unreliable, too distracted by family responsibilities, can’t handle high-stress jobs or won’t be able to work at a high enough pace”.

“I believe that we need the same sort of cultural change in relation to older people and people with disability as we had to push for and finally achieve in relation to women,” said Ms Ryan, who pioneered the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 as minister assisting the prime minister on the status of women in the Hawke Labor government.

“It is not a niche problem. It is a major demographic fact and we need to deal with it as much as we did with women, but we don’t want it to take as long.”

After he turned 64, educator and consultant Raden Dunbar got a taste of the age discrimination he’d dished out to others when he was hiring in the past, he told the inquiry. As a recruiter, “I instinctively avoided hiring applicants who were older and more experienced than me – because of a concern that such people might be ‘difficult to handle’.”

“I now think that, out of self-interest, I didn’t want my own standing to be jeopardised by the presence of a much older, more experienced subordinate.” Over-qualified, too senior, or over-experienced for the position were the usual excuses made to unsuccessful older applicants. “I could also pretend that they would ‘waste the training investment’ in view of their purportedly shorter future working lives,” Mr Dunbar said.

Programs and subsidies to encourage employers to hire older or disabled workers are ineffective, the inquiry found. The lack of opportunities to gain new skills for mid-life workers from declining industries like manufacturing condemns many capable and experienced workers to “years of poverty on benefits”.

Ms Ryan said older workers are also vulnerable to rip-offs under the rorting that has plagued the vocational education and training industry. “We need to make sure that … training is linked to a skill shortage in the area that they can realistically be trained to fill, not just some private provider who is enrolling them in something with a fancy name,” she said.

The report does not argue for special treatment for older workers or people with disabilities. The best person for the job should always get it, Ms Ryan said.

Viktoria Rother, now 53, is now adding to her stack of degrees with a master’s of environmental management and sustainability online through the University of Newcastle. Employers “think that those of us who are over 40, our brains are atrophied and we can’t possibly learn anything new. I find it insulting,” she says. But she feels optimistic about her chances in a growing field. It is a “completely different and new career path for me because I think the government wants me to work until I am 103”, she says.

Source: SMH

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Arnoud De Meyer

Studies at German carmakers show that with the right tools and environment, older workers get more productive. It is time to redesign jobs in Singapore, from cleaning to food and beverage and services.
A few months ago, I saw a series of advertisements on buses promoting the recruitment of older workers. The direct message was nice and clear: Older workers can bring a wealth of experience and can therefore be useful to an organisation. But I felt, perhaps wrongly, that there was a subliminal stereotype in these advertisements suggesting that older workers were not productive any more, and that such lowering in productivity had to be compensated by the sometimes- elusive concept of experience.

If that were true, we here in Singapore would be up for unpleasant surprises. While the Government rightly encourages us to enhance productivity in all sectors of the economy, we also know we have a rapidly ageing society. We have fewer babies than in the past and we live longer.

As a consequence, the number of Singapore citizens and permanent residents in the usual working age range of 20 to 64 peaked last year, and the number of citizens above 65 will rise from 440,000 last year to 900,000 by 2030. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be only 2.1 working-age residents for every person above 65, as opposed to more than double that today.

What can we do about it? One option is significant growth in immigration. I don’t think that is on the cards. Another option is that we all work longer. I am not sure I like that option personally, but from observing what is happening in other countries with a rapidly ageing population, such as Britain, Germany and Japan, I see that everywhere the real retirement age is rising. In fact, with the exception of Japan, many societies are turning to both options: increasing immigration and working longer.


That is the bad news. Now for the good news.

The assumption that productivity declines with age is factually wrong. Research in many industrialised countries shows clearly that productivity does not diminish with age. We have to be careful with some of these studies because they measure productivity of younger and older people who are active in the workforce. One can thus argue that those who left the workforce are the ones who had lost out in productivity. So a more precise formulation is that there is no loss of productivity for ageing workers who stay in the workforce.


There is, of course, quite some difference in productivity between members of that older age group, but that is also true for younger workers. To put it scientifically, the variance within each age group is significantly larger than the variance between age groups.

Let me refer to one seminal piece of research (by Axel Boersch-Supan and Matthias Weiss) on an assembly line of the German car manufacturer Mercedes. Such car assembly lines have a fixed pace. So productivity is not measured by speeding up the lines, but by measuring the mistakes that are made, leading to defective cars that need to be reworked, thus reducing the output per day. Measured this way, the productivity per worker at Mercedes went up till the age of 65 – it does not mean it could not go up beyond 65. There were simply no workers older than 65.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.
I can already see some of us thinking this does not make sense. We all know that when we age we have growing problems with our eyesight or hearing, we are less able to lift heavy loads and our cardiorespiratory capabilities decline. And yes, I personally also seem to forget a bit more as I grow older. And we may learn less rapidly than a 20-something.

It may be true that what is called fluid intelligence, or your capability to learn abstract concepts and reasoning, may diminish with age.

But your crystallised intelligence, which is based on knowledge acquisition and experience, rises and compensates significantly for that loss of fluid intelligence.

The loss of sensory capabilities (seeing and hearing) can be easily compensated by a better working environment. A bit more light in the workplace can help. Our inability to lift heavy weights can be compensated by having a few more tools.

Once again, I would like to refer to a 10-year-old study at that other German car manufacturer, BMW.

They understood in the early 2000s that with the rapidly rising age of their workforce, they would have to redesign their factories. So they created an assembly line with a group of workers with an average age of 47. The factory’s management raised the issue, some managers ran an experiment, but it was the workers themselves who came up with the solutions.

With a mere €40,000 investment in an assembly line, they were able to raise productivity by 7 per cent in one year, equalling the assembly lines staffed by younger workers. Absenteeism was originally at 7 per cent but, after a few years, it dropped to 2 per cent.

What was the trick? A few simple equipment changes, accompanied by changes in work practices. There were new chairs (based on the design for the barber shop chair), magnifying lenses, adjustable worktables, large-handled gripping tools, larger typeface on the computer screens, and wooden floors which are better for our joints. In addition, a physiotherapist developed stretching and strength exercises to make older people more flexible at the start of the working day.

Why do I make this point? First, because I am convinced that Singapore needs to develop an environment that will enable ageing people to remain productive. We need it to remain competitive.

Second, if we do it well we may develop innovative processes and workshop designs that can be sold to other ageing countries. Germany has started with this. Japan is heavily investing in robotisation to support elderly people.

What can we do?

Robotisation might help. But in many cases I am convinced it is gimmicky, and nice to show on a late-night TV show. The reality is much simpler and cheaper. I am convinced that enhancing productivity for the elderly can be stimulated in five ways.


First, let’s get over the stereotypes that older people are wiser but less productive. With the right tools and in the right environment, they can be both wiser and more productive. Perhaps we also should change our vocabulary. Let’s not talk about ageing. It sounds negative. Let’s talk about longevity.

Second, let’s research the tools, the environment and the education needed to keep our long-living workforce productive. The BMW case is just one example.

How do we reorganise cleaning, F&B, construction, bus driving, computerised services, libraries, entertainment, you name it, so that it becomes easier for long-living workers to be productive?

For example, at many of our institutions, cleaning is performed by elderly people. But the tools are designed for young people.

I notice at my own organisation that some of the “uncles” and “aunties” have quite cleverly reorganised their tools to make it easier for them to do their cleaning jobs. Perhaps we should listen more to them.

Recently, I was in a taxi with an elderly driver who was hard of hearing. At first, I was a bit worried. But he had really organised himself well to communicate with his passengers. He had a little note on the back of the front seat apologising for his hearing problem, and a notebook for the passenger to write down the destination. I noticed he was doubly careful in checking for cars overtaking, and found that he drove very efficiently and safely.

Third, we need to invest in more flexible working arrangements. Older people may be interested in different lifestyles and work arrangements. They may want to work only part-time because they want to take care of their grandchildren. Or they may wake up earlier and would love to work from 6am till 3pm. And some older women may want to catch up on their career to make up for the time they had lost when they were taking care of their children. They may well want to work more. I am not dictating the right way of organising work. What is needed are more flexible arrangements that fit longer-living employees.

Fourth, let’s get rid of the notion that older people cannot learn, or the idea that it is not a good investment to have them learn new skills. They are as capable as anybody else to learn new approaches. They may have a different learning style. Some research in the Nordic countries indicated that retired people were as eager and capable as adolescents to learn how to navigate the Internet and its social networks. They just learnt it in a different way. The value of education and training is not reduced by age.

And, finally, we should not underestimate that elderly people know better the needs and challenges of elderly customers. When a senior citizen goes to a bank, does he or she really want to be advised about investments by a youngish relationship manager? Frankly, I personally prefer to be served by an experienced older cabin crew than by the youthful stewards and stewardesses with scant experience in life that we see so often in the advertisements of our airlines.

My point is that we should design services and products appropriate for long-living people and delivered by long-living people. Let’s stop talking about ageing. Instead, let’s focus on living longer and working longer and well. Longevity and productivity can go hand in hand.

The writer is president of Singapore Management University.