Older workers key to our future

Older workers are the key to Australia’s economic growth, according to the Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey. In an article published yesterday in The Age, Mr Hockey brought to light the discrimination of older Australians in the workforce, and how this is holding the nation back from its full economic potential.

Mr Hockey stressed that Australia needs to increase the number of mature workers in the workforce if it is to keep its economy growing. Failure to ensure this, he says, will mean “tax revenues will struggle to fund the same level of government services we enjoy today.”

Mr Hockey argued that an ageing population such as Australia’s cannot afford to reject the skills and capabilities of its older workers. He claimed that “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,” he said.

Finally, Mr Hockey referenced Deloitte Access Economics, which estimated that “a three per cent increase in participation by the over 55s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy. A five per cent increase in participation would see a $48 billion boost to the economy.”

Mr Hockey argued that the benefits of longer term employment of older Australians would be seen across the board; not only would the government experience less of a budget strain, but also people remaining in the workforce, whose tax revenue would bolster older Australians relying on government support. Mr Hockey also discussed the health benefits that working longer and staying occupied have on older Australians.

Read more at The Age.

Opinion: Real issues, real action

It is all well and good to be an idealist, but when you are responsible for a country’s economic prosperity, idealism simply isn’t good enough. Real issues call for real action. Mr Hockey is bound by his role as Federal Treasurer to put his money where his mouth is. If he believes that older Australians should remain in the workforce, why won’t he offer Australians (young, old and in between) real promises about ensuring that there will be jobs for them?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classifies a mature worker as someone aged 55 or older. Figures from the ABS reported that in 2009/10, more than 35 per cent of jobseekers aged 55 and over stopped looking for work based on their belief that potential employers would think they were too old. Sadly, this trend is likely to be a considerable factor influencing low mature worker employment statistics today.

Currently, unemployment of older Australians sits at 64 per cent. Data from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says that, on average, it will take a mature worker looking for employment more than one year, or an average of 70 weeks, to find employment. This is a direct result of the ageist attitude towards older workers seen in Australia.

There is one thing Mr Hockey said that I believe: “Older workers contribute knowledge and skills based on years of experience and expertise. We need older people working and contributing to our economic growth.”

Teachers, tradespeople, media professionals and corporate and business professionals – it is only when we can encourage all Australians that their input in their industry is appreciated, while still making jobs available for newcomers, will the nation flourish socially and economically. 

We need to be a ‘doing’ society and not just a ‘talking’ one. Most importantly, we need to make everyone feel valuable and relevant, to encourage them to continue contributing to our economy and – this is a crucial point – to reward them for it with lasting pensions. To Mr Hockey (and all your mates up there), consider this a little tip (free), from me to you.

Can having more mature workers in employment help Australia’s economic situation? Have you struggled to remain in or re-enter the workforce because of your age? 

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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