Mixed messages on older workers

Where are the jobs?

Newspapers often feature contradictory articles. Sometimes they are even on the same page. And so it happened last Friday in The Age when Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lauded the value of older Australian workers in one article, while the piece next to it revealed that a key government project to employ 32,000 older Australians had fallen short – by 31,500. So what is going on here?

A quick recap.

As Julie Bishop is turning 59 this year, she remarked that she believes ’60 is the new 40 – or 30’ as a light-hearted attempt to reinforce the need for “…an acknowledgement that experience and the wisdom that comes from experience actually should count for more than it does”. In fact Julie Bishop was once Minister for Ageing in former PM John Howard’s government in 2003. So she knows the territory of mature age work well – and the challenges facing many older Australians who are seeking work at a time when our manufacturing industries are declining and unemployment is rising.

Sadly her well-intentioned remarks were somewhat strangely juxtaposed with the article titled Key Abbott jobs scheme struggles to meet target, reporting on the $10,000 Restart program which was introduced in the 2014 Abbott Government Budget. Described by the government as a ‘seniors employment incentive payment’, employers who hire jobseekers aged 50 or over are promised $10,000, paid in four lump sums over a two-year period. So it is very disappointing that only 510 workers, out of the targetted 32,000, have been hired under this scheme. This may be because many employers simply do not know they can apply for the incentive, because older workers are just not being hired, or because there are no jobs.

Read more at TheAge.com.au 

Read more at SMH.com.au

Read more at Budget.gov.au

 

Opinion: Where are the jobs?

A positive discrimination program which encourages employers to hire older workers is commendable. But if there are no jobs to be had, it’s unlikely to help. Recent research reveals that Mature aged workers (defined as those aged over 45) make up 34 per cent of the unemployed and 46 per cent of the long-term unemployed

And most of us have experienced that awful chicken and egg situation where it is easier to get a job when you have a job – and b***y difficult to do so when you are unemployed. In fact, the average time out of work for someone aged 55 is more than a year – 72 weeks in actuality. So while it seems smart to attach an incentive to the hiring of an older person, as the number of jobs available shrinks, perhaps this simply displaces another jobseeker, from a different age group. Sadly there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in November 2014 was 6.3 per cent. As we suffer a downturn in our resources and manufacturing industries, we have yet to experience a commensurate increase in newer industries. Some, including financial services and education, are certainly hiring more workers. But cutting edge technology and renewable energy have not been fostered and the reduction of investment in these industries does not instil confidence that Australia will see jobs growth in such sectors.

So where does this leave us? In very poor shape to face future challenges and in dire straits if the proposed Budget 2014 legislation to increase the retirement age to 70 gets through the Senate.

It is very dispiriting to be unemployed if you believe you still have a lot to offer. It is also difficult to contemplate a fun retirement if you don’t have the opportunity to keep earning and saving. For many of us, work provides a sense of purpose, achievement and a social outlet. It is regrettable that that Restart program has yet to be more enthusiastically embraced by those doing the hiring.

What do you think? Is the Restart program doomed to fail? Or are employers simply yet to hear about it?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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