More bust than boom

Baby boomers are redefining the face of retirement – including the make-up of the workforce and the ranks of the unemployed.

Australians are increasingly working longer, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

In January 2018, Australians aged 65 and over had a workforce participation rate of 13 per cent (17 per cent for men and 10 per cent for women), an increase from eight per cent in 2006 (12 per cent for men and four per cent for women).

The report predicts the rate will continue to increase as Australians’ retirement intentions change.

It says that in 2004–05, just eight per cent of Australians aged 45 and over intended to work until age 70, compared with 20 per cent in 2016–17 – more than tripling in 12 years.

In 2016–17, the average intended retirement age was 65 (66 for men and 64 for women), with just under one in four (22 per cent) men aged 45 and over intending to work beyond age 70.

The increasing desire – or necessity – to work for longer has had an impact on the ranks of the unemployed with government data revealing that the largest single group of Australians on Newstart are those aged 55-plus.

Of the 720,000 Australians on Newstart, 173,196 are aged 55–64 and another 10,747 aged 65-plus, according to the Department of Social Services.

And that does not take into account underemployment.

The AIHW reports that among people aged 55 and over in November 2017, 6.1 per cent of employed people were underemployed; the unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent of the workforce in that age group.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison points to the Government’s record of jobs creation when quizzed about Newstart and unemployment, proudly declaring that Australia keeps producing work for most of those who seek it. On average about 200,000 jobs a year have been created in the past decade, but because of population growth, 240,000 new jobs are needed each year just to keep the unemployment rate steady.

And do older job-seekers get a fair hearing?

An Australian Human Rights Institute survey of members conducted in July–August last year in association with the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 30 per cent of managers took age into account when making decisions about recruitment and selection.

Almost a third (30 per cent) of respondents indicated their organisation had an age above which they were reluctant to recruit workers. The majority (68 per cent) of respondents indicated that there was an unwillingness to hire workers over the age of 50.

Only eight per cent of respondents reported that line managers in their organisation were given training on how to manage different generations, though 22 per cent were given training on unconscious bias.

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky says that addressing ageism – especially in the workforce – is an issue for all Australians.

She told YourLifeChoices: “Unfortunately older people face significant barriers when they are looking for work.

“Many recruiters and prospective employers carry outdated assumptions and stereotypes in their heads about what older workers can and can’t do.

“In an era where we are generally living longer, healthier lives, it’s time to shake off these dangerous, discriminatory and unfair prejudices and treat older job applicants on their merits, just like everyone else.”

Monash University’s Professor Katheen Riach says that age biases and age inequalities in workplaces is endemic – and growing – particularly in the current economic crisis where older people are viewed as increased competition for jobs.

Good luck with that job hunt.

Have you encountered ageism in the workplace or seeking a job?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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