Job services failing older Aussies

Employment services are failing older Australians, with many heading towards retirement being forced to sell their homes, spend their savings and live their later years in poverty.

Following the release of the Anglicare Australia Jobs Availability Snapshot, Anglicare Australia has called for an overhaul of employment services for older people.

“The job market isn’t working for everyone. It’s failing those who need the most help to find work – people applying for low-skilled work. Our research shows that at least four of these jobseekers are competing for each job at their level,” said Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers.

“Older people in this group face even tougher odds. Age discrimination and the demand for advanced skills make it hard to compete.

“This problem is getting worse. Mature-age jobseekers now make up 28 per cent of the Jobactive caseload – and research shows that it takes them much longer to find work.”

The report aims to show what the job market is really like for those facing employment barriers, particularly for those who may not have adequate qualifications or experience, those who are trying to re-enter the workforce after a long break, or for people living in regional or remote areas.

Results reveal that, while the Government proclaims that there is a jobs boom across the country, there is a dearth of low-skill, entry-level work that would typically suit older people looking to bridge a gap between full-time employment and retirement.

Just 25,997 of the total 185,662 jobs listed in May 2018 were for low-skill work. There were 110,735 jobseekers with barriers to work, many of whom were 55 and older. This means, nationwide, four or five of these people were competing for each of the jobs listed. In Western Australia it’s six; South Australia, eight, and in Tasmania, there were 12 jobseekers for each job.

Older workers, where the industry utilising their skills has declined, face ongoing barriers to regaining employment. To make matters worse, says the Anglicare report, the longer people are unemployed, the longer they are likely to remain so, and their only option is to access Newstart payments.

But Ms Chambers said the low rate of Newstart is a major problem for older people.

“Many people believe that Newstart is a payment for younger people, but that’s a myth. The number of older Australians on Newstart is growing by 10,000 a year.

“Instead of preparing to retire, many people are being forced to sell their homes and spend their savings. Nobody should be forced to retire into poverty.”

So Ms Chambers has called for employment services system reforms.

“It’s time to overhaul the Jobactive network. It’s taking an average of five years to find work for those who need the most help – and it’s likely to take much longer for older people,” she said.

“We need to offer tailored support to older people seeking work. That means smaller caseloads, more time to work with jobseekers, and less time on compliance.

“We need to abandon the cruel, pointless changes of recent years. People over 55 are no longer allowed to meet their mutual obligation requirements with volunteering. That rule doesn’t help anybody and must be reversed.

“And if we want to stop people from retiring into poverty, then we must raise Newstart and stop lifting the pension age.

“These changes are urgent. If we don’t fix this broken system, we will be forcing people to spend their older years in poverty.”

Have you had trouble finding work? Do you believe that Newstart rates are a problem?

Related articles:
Lift Newstart and the Age Pension
Older Australians on ageism
Why we should work until 70 – or not

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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