Older workers could be the key to COVID recovery

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The UK believes older workers are the key to COVID recovery.

It seems this ideal is not shared by the Australian Government.

At least that’s what Labor’s unemployment spokesperson Brendan O’Connor is saying.

According to an International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK ) report, nearly one in three workers across the G20 is aged 50 and over – this could rise to 40 per cent of the workforce by 2035.

These workers generated every third dollar earned across the G20 in 2014.

By 2035, they’re projected to generate nearly 40 per cent of all earnings.

The study showed that if all older people in G20 countries were encouraged and supported to work at the same rates as Iceland they would see a GDP gain of around $3.7 trillion.

With this in mind, the ILC-UK wants an ‘Ageing Society New Deal’ that would see G20 countries invest more to encourage and support older workers.

“Policy makers are so fixated on the direct costs of ageing that they fail to notice the significant and growing contributions that older people make,” said ILC-UK director David Sinclair.

“This prevents them from fully realising the social and economic potential of older people – and from appreciating the longevity dividend.

“Older people’s social and economic impact is already significant, but there’s potential to increase this further. The barriers they face are in part avoidable – and the most important is poor health.

“Despite the tragedy and the devastation, COVID-19 has placed society in an exceptional moment to prioritise health and act on ageing. It has shown us how health and the economy are linked and has exposed the dangers of under-investing in prevention.

“Let’s use this shift in mind-set to raise the necessary funds today to realise a longevity dividend tomorrow.”

The Australian Government’s version of a ‘New Deal” for older workers is its Restart program, in which the Coalition has spent less than half what it promised to help older Australians into work.

More than 40 per cent of those who actually accessed the program were out of a job within three months.

Restart provides employers up to $10,000 to hire and retain mature age employees who are 50 years of age and over.

In 2014, the Coalition promised to spend $520 million to help 32,000 older Australians find a job every year.

To date, a total of $254m has been spent to help 51,190 mature-age people into work, 30,379 of whom remained in employment for 13 weeks or more, and less than half (21,966) lasting more than six months. The recently announced JobMaker scheme will throw $4bn in wage subsidies to companies that hire workers aged 35 and under.

The Morrison government has defended its decision to exclude older workers – or anyone over 35 – from the JobMaker scheme, by saying its Restart program was already helping them.

However, Labor’s employment spokesman MR O’Connor says the Restart program “has been an utter failure in getting older people into work and yet the government is touting it as its signature policy for Australians over 50”.

“Not only is it undersubscribed, 40 per cent of workers under this program were without work within three months,” he told Guardian Australia.

Mr O’Connor has been a strong opponent of the program since its inception.

Back in 2015, employment minister Michaelia Cash said that, “Restart is a demand-driven programme and the government budgeted for a maximum uptake of 32,000.”

And even back then, Mr O’Connor had a dig at the program.

“It’s the government’s program that needs a restart as it’s proving to be a dismal failure,” he said.

“No amount of rhetorical flourish from the Prime Minister can hide the real reason the program doesn’t work – there simply are not the jobs available.”

Labor’s last foray into supporting older workers – Experience + Jobs bonus scheme – also fell on its face, with only 230 of the 10,000 target taking advantage of the $1000 annual subsidy.

Labor has backed the Budget’s income tax cuts and business tax concessions but is so far blocking JobMaker pending a Senate inquiry.

“If Scott Morrison was serious about driving down unemployment and kickstarting the recovery, he would not be excluding almost a million Australians aged over 35 on unemployment payments from his new multi-billion-dollar wage subsidy scheme,” said Mr O’Connor.

There are also concerns the program could actually push older workers with jobs on to the unemployment line.

The JobMaker scheme itself already excludes older workers, says the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but the credits for employing younger people could also incentivise businesses to sack older workers in favour of subsidising younger workers.

Labor and the Coalition may have different views of older workers, but so far, both party’s plans to get them back to work have been flawed.

What government incentives would you like to see to get older workers back on the job?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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47 Comments

Total Comments: 47
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    By this article older workers seem to be anyone over 35! Really? And yet, the 30-45 age group seems to be the ideal for employers looking for employees, not slave labour. Low end jobs they look for young or suedo ‘contract’ employees because the industrial laws have been diluted to allow this practice to flourish. The Govt needs to have a multi-faceted employment plan that is targeted at reducing the number of unemployed, no matter their age. If you reduce unemployment by 30% no matter the age of the unemployed, that is an achievement. Only brand advertising will change the perception of employers. Employing older workers eg over 50 is a bias that has developed along with the 50 years of glossy magazines that youthfulness is the holy grail. Nova employment have used branding for about 5 years to promote people with disabilities as valuable employees. And now it’s finally gathering some momentum. The same needs to be done for older workers, once the actual definition of older employees is defined.
    In the current climate of Covid-19, Federal Govt will have to get their remote quarantine strategy together to manage international border virus so the confidence in the longevity of the economy can be rebuilt.

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    The answer to employing older aged workers (if you define 36 plus as old) is simple. First, let’s get some basic facts. The government’s real goal is to minimize expenditure, yet enable it to boast it spent $X million dollars helping the unemployed. There’s the crunch! Why not make the “old” definition to be 30 or over, then the majority of workers would feel too old to be employed. But it would reduce government expenditure even further. Win Win for the government. Here is what the Australian economy really loses and which the government couldn’t give a rat’s arse about as it doesn’t concern the number of voters.

    1. 10-15 years of on the job experience from those 35-45 lost. Once lost, never recovered.
    2. Basic income support for those with growing families. Devastation. No jobs available. There kids will be in the 5-10 age group, going to school and preparing for the future
    3. Mortgages/rent will cause undue hardship
    4. Consumption and expenditure will slump
    5. House prices will slump. Not such a brilliant move if your 30 year mortgage is worth much more than your property is worth
    6. Real estate investment will slump.
    7. Demand for the building sector will slump. In fact, demand in general. The list keeps going.

    Now, for those greedy companies (mostly overseas owned or controlled) who employ bean counters at outrageous wages to generate more profit (by employing younger people with lower experience at cheaper wages) I say, let’s boycott their products or services. The bean counters will soon be sacked, they will improve product quality and the world will return to normal again. Up or down profit is the only way these bastards listen.

    Here’s an example: I went to buy petrol on Monday, which for months has been around $1.08 per litre. Exactly the same service station as before (owned by Woolies) is now charging $1.48. Do they think we’re stupid or something? That’s 37% increase. The price of oil actually decreased slightly, so how come they get away with it? What is the pricing control authority doing? How can they allow this rate of profit in one day?

    Here is another example: Ford Broadmeadows in the early nineties built a new paint factory to replace the old lead based factory they had up till then. Yes the product improved, and very shiny cars rolled off the assembly line. The number of cars output per day also increased – more profit! Clap hands you say. The darker reality is they employed robots to do the bulk of paint spraying, so all they needed were 10-11 operators overseeing the robots and end quality. The previous 100-120 workers were no longer required. Ford still charged top dollar. The car I bought new in 1980 cost $29,000 dollars. It was a medium ford sedan. Wok out what $29.000 is worth today! I could have bout 4 Kias today. No wonder Ford went broke.

    Here’s why.

    1. The government authority is in the pockets of the big petrol companies.
    2. The government must have instructed the control authority to keep their mouth shut as the revenue for the government from taxes on the wholesale price, increases at the same time
    3. Most important reason, kids went back to school in Victoria. So gullible mums shrug their shoulders and pay through the nose.

    I will never buy petrol from Woolies outlets again. It won’t be long if there is enough backlash, they will drop their prices to what they were last month. They soon understand lack of business hurts their profit bottom line.

    This current government with their hands in big end of towns’ pockets is all about good living for the well off and damm the rest, bit like the situation in France just before the revolution as well as Russia in 1919. Let’s hope the bastards stay in power long enough so when they crash, it will be a big one.

    I feel this unfair government has to change to represent the Australian majority, not just a gifted few.

  3. 0
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    Once again the government had the opportunity to do something for everyone and not mainly the wealthier employed. Just raising the tax threshold would have helped ALL taxpayers. Many pensioners are struggling especially those who have very little or no super. The pensions for those who do have super are regulated according to their assets and income EXCEPT for POLITICIANS. It is past time when they should be forced to conform to the laws which they have enacted.
    It is appalling to learn that company executives have taken pay rises when they have been reducing the income of their employees who actually do the work whether by cutting their hourly rates or contracting out the jobs at a lower rate. It is after all the workers who produce the goods for sale.
    All this is due to the “doctrinaire” approach of both major parties. We need to reflect on how many politicians have actually worked in the REAL world?
    We once had politicians who were representative of the population but not anymore.

  4. 0
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    the government fails older workers , the disabled , carers , the list goes on yet still people vote for them . why should they change a system that works very well for them thankyou very much . as long as the people do nothing but whine and complain the polies wont do anything. when the polies tell lies in an attempt to gain votes but dont follow through on the promises isnt that fraud?? anyone able to challenge them ??

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      We can’t NOT vote for them, tisme. That’s the real problem. We vote for one evil mob or the other, both with the same agenda. There is no choice. Vote independent or minor party and the preferences go to one of the majors. Until we find a way to get rid of the two party system, we are all stuffed.

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      increase your influence over your political representatives by doing everything in your power to make it a marginal seat, regardless who is in government.

  5. 0
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    In response to JoJozep’ comments, I remember well the “Bunton plan” which gave a multi-million grant to Ford, their CEO retired and the grant went almost totally to him.
    What the government should have to the car industry was to take a stake in it. Millions of taxpayer dollars went to all of the resident car companies and they all moved of shore. With a sizable stake we could have restarted an Australian owned car plant and retained at least some of the skilled workers but sadly is so it easy to be wise after the event.

  6. 0
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    “What government incentives would you like to see to get older workers back on the job?”

    I can’t see where government can do anything about older workers because it’s the private sector that creates the bulk of the employment and they don’t want older workers. I have an interest in this topic as I was made redundant in my late 40’s with no formal qualifications and the industry in which I was employed was handing out redundancies all over the place. Hundreds of applications went, in the main, unanswered and on the very rare occasion I got an interview, the reason for missing out on a job was never anything to do with age. Employers are too clever to fall into the discrimination trap so any studies done as regards older worker employment will invariably miss the real reason. At one stage I had a lump sum of $6000 attached to give to an employer as an incentive to employ older workers. One of the conditions was to be employed fulltime for at least 6 months and the day the 6 months was up I was told the company was downsizing and I had to go.

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      The key phrase in your rant is “made redundant .. with no formal qualifications…”. Education and training is a lifelong commitment and those who fail to seek to improve their own qualifications through appropriate training and reeducation inevitably become unemployed and unemployable. A lesson that lots of workers, young and old should heed particularly in the current economic climate. Industries rise and fall and those workers who keep up with the changes are rarely without work. Look at the waterfront industries. Wharfies as they were known in the sixties and seventies mainly required physical strength and fitness, but as cargo handling methods changed skills like container management and heavy vehicle driving came to the forefront. Some kept up, others who resisted change simply added to ranks of the unemployed. Now its IA capable computers, robotics and software management – new skills emerging all the time. Think what will happen within the next 20 years when most of our vehicles are electric – those who work in the auto servicing industry will face changes we can only dream about today.

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      Wow Buggsie, your arrogance is breathtaking. Without knowing who I am, you have made a startling assumption. In my employ of over 35 years, I did courses applicable to my employer and reached managerial level with qualifications specific to the industry that didn’t translate to other industries.

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      Exactly once the Govt hand out money incentives to employ people…employers will look for a loophole to fill their own pockets…but the Govt keep going on with these schemes it’s as if they want this nonsense to happen….sick of listening to all these slogans and job creation figures from the Prime Minister and other Ministers in the Federal Govt.

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      Exactly once the Govt hand out money incentives to employ people…employers will look for a loophole to fill their own pockets…but the Govt keep going on with these schemes it’s as if they want this nonsense to happen….sick of listening to all these slogans and job creation figures from the Prime Minister and other Ministers in the Federal Govt.

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      Buggsie, it would be nice if it was as easy as you seem to suggest. The reality is that many of us didn’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education or trade training, but learned in ‘the school of life’ and got on well, until some idiot decided a piece of paper had more worth than years of real world experience and proven ability. Without certain pre-requisites, and the luxury of study time and potentially money to pay hefty fees, it is impossible for many to obtain that elusive piece of paper, yet they may be perfectly competent and up-to-date with their skills. I’ve been there, and it’s prevented me getting employment while people who were nowhere near as capable or experienced took the job because they had a ‘degree’ (possibly as useful as a card out of a cereal box, but a ‘degree’ nonetheless). To be perfectly honest, my loss was my fault, because I was offered the chance to buy a degree at modest cost without doing the study and I was too ethical to accept. Silly me!

  7. 0
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    I don’t the government for the failure of the Restart scheme. Most employers just don’t want older employees. It is that simple. The government’s failure is requiring unrealistic mutual obligations for older workers for Jobseeker payments. I would like to see them meet the obligations. Further, if you own your own home, food, clothing, energy costs, land rates, water rates, car registration and insurances all need to be met from less than $300 a week. This payment, whilst is generally accepted as inadequate, the government is seeking to have it cancelled for the recipients. Not easy for people who might have worked 40+ years and contributed to government funds to help fund run the country.

  8. 0
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    What was the reason these workers only lasted 3 months or 6 months. Were they sacked or did they resign?

    Maybe employ a few older workers in retail to teach the young ones about what they are selling and how to read instructions. Simple tasks like restocking shelves seems beyond them and nobody knows what they are selling or anything about it which seems very odd.

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      Rae, ‘were they sacked or did they resign’, Probably the former and for the same reason my older grandchildren lost their part time jobs in fast food outlets, once they attained 18 years of age and were entitled to adult wages, they were replaced by 15 year olds. These oldies who ran out of subsidy were replaced by another oldie with a new subsidy. It is all about the money Rae.
      By the way my grandkids got new part-time jobs working in the alcohol retailing industry where being 18 was a requirement.

  9. 0
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    Hi to all.
    I would love to work again but spend 6 hours a day 7 days a week helping the Agedcare home look after my beautiful wife of 56 years.
    The carers are fantastic but their numbers are limited and my presence helps them .
    The unfairness is that as a self funded retiree I pay a Government means test which together with Agedcare fees totals $1000.00 a week.
    I am not complaining And I don’t want a handout but I drive a 20 year old car and live very frugally. Something I never thought I would be doing in my 75th year.
    Unfortunately in Australia our decision makers have Forgotten the Australian way of a fair go for all.
    Best wishes to all

    • 0
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      Something’s not right in this country & this makes my blood boil, you shouldn’t be treated like this after paying taxes all your life!

    • 0
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      “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” … life is a lottery and not always fair, sometimes we just do what we have to do

    • 0
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      The fact that some folk are worse off doesn’t make it okay, Farside. It’s a disgrace that Hammo is forced to pay those costs just because he did what governments urged us all to do – save for retirement. It’s disgusting. And if he were to abandon his wife… Then the State would pick up the tab for her care. Doing the right thing results in harsh penalties in today’s Australia. It’s past time we all joined forces to demand change.

    • 0
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      Youngagain, it’s not about making it ok but rather accepting his situation. Nobody is suggesting Hammo abandon his wife. Sometimes you just accept what life brings your way and, as Hammo has done, get on with it with minimum drama. Sure things could be better but complaining about is not going to ease the situation.

    • 0
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      I disagree, Farside. A concise, carefully-worded letter to politicians and others with relevant powers can often turn the tide – especially if many people write similar complaints. Alerting people to the problem is the key to rallying support to demand change. It’s never easy, but it’s not impossible.

    • 0
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      obviously then nobody has done as you suggest Youngagain. Sometimes it’s just easy to get on with it unless you have no other choice.

  10. 0
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    So why has my previos comment been deleted and my account been logged out meaning I had to reverify my account?

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