Increasing number of older Australians on the scrapheap

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An ever-increasing number of older Australians are unemployed, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures.

The bureau reports that despite a drop in the overall unemployment rate over the past five years, the number of older Australians out of work has increased.

Between December 2014 and December 2019, the number of people unemployed in the general community fell by 5.5 per cent, however the number of older people out of work (those aged 55 to 64) increased by 7.8 per cent.

The ABS figures relating to underemployment painted an even grimmer picture for older Australians. Overall underemployment increased 7.6 per cent over the five years to December 2019. But among the older cohort, it jumped 21.2 per cent.

Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Eva Scheerlinck told The New Daily that older people were being forced out of the workforce prematurely.

“Up to 40 per cent of Australians don’t get to choose when they retire and a significant number of these people have experienced workplace discrimination,” she said.

“Many older Australians are trying to stay in the workforce but simply can’t get the work.”

The challenge for older women seeking work jumped to another level.

Australian National University demographer Liz Allen said a lot of women in their mid-40s, who took a redundancy that was financially attractive, were unable to get back into the workforce.

“To be treated as too old at 45 is extraordinary,” she told The New Daily. “The population is ageing, but we are effectively discriminating against ourselves.

“There are laws against age discrimination, but it is happening anyway.

“It’s a peculiar situation. We are going to need as many people contributing to income tax as possible, so we need to find ways to keep people in the workforce longer.”

Dr Allen said that older people should be able to feel confident they could change jobs without being unemployed for an extended period of time.

“We need to find a way of allowing older people to move around in the workforce safely,” she said.

A 2019 study by the University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence found that if you lose your job past the age of 50, you were in the hardest age bracket to find work.

The study followed the Human Rights Commission Willing To Work Inquiry, which found job-seekers aged 55-plus were unemployed, on average, for 68 weeks, compared to 49 weeks for those aged 25 to 54 and 30 weeks for 15 to 24-year-olds.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese told the Queensland Media Club on Wednesday that more than 170,000 Australians aged between 55 and 64 were on unemployment benefits just when they should be building their nest egg. They face “spiralling down towards a pretty lean retirement,” he said.

He said a Labor government would focus on key areas relating to older Australians: the superannuation imbalance between men and women, retraining to help over-55s stay in the workforce, aged care and a pensioner dental plan.

“Volunteering is great. But to build a stronger economy, we must harness the talents of everybody – and that includes older Australians who are sources of wisdom and experience for their employers and co-workers,” he said.

In YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Retirement Income Review Survey, 69 per cent of the almost 4000 respondents, said there should be more incentives for people to work for longer.

This comment from YourLifeChoices member Patti was typical of many: “I am really glad I am no longer required to look for work. It is soul-destroying as no one seems interested in employing anyone over 50. I would hate to try and exist on Newstart, because it certainly is not enough to live on.”

Wickedness said: “There appears to be no value on experience. I am an older person with a varied experience but I find that just walking in the door it is as if ‘Oh no! Not another old bloke!’”

Are you looking for work without luck? Do you believe the lack of opportunity is directly related to your age?

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Written by Janelle Ward


Total Comments: 43
  1. 0

    It is soul-destroying. When I decided to retire after running a business for 35 years (IT) I decided I would return to teaching because there is always a shortage of good maths and science teachers. I thought I could work part time and ease myself gradually into retirement. I was happy to work for 3 or 4 days a week and I had full teacher registration and good qualifications. After approaching more than fifteen schools I gave up trying. They just did not want me.
    Next I tried to offer myself to do volunteer teaching. Several schools expressed an interest but none of them took me up on it. I think that they just thought I was old so my methods and/or knowledge would be out dated too.

    • 0

      the hoo haa around STEM in schools and the workforce is greatly exaggerated. Neither schools, colleges or universities nor employers want to know or they would do something about it.

      For more than a decade I have met numerous well qualified folk with a lifetime of experience in STEM related fields keen to share their knowledge and become mentors. Rarely does this become a reality. The crazy bit is many are looking to give something back and help organisations that ordinarily could not have afforded their skills, only to see organisations rejecting this resource. So we sit by and watch story after story come out with failed projects, worker shortages, systematic payroll errors etc all the while having that nagging feeling you could have helped change some of these trajectories if given the opportunity.

    • 0

      Maybe you don’t fit the picture with what the universities are churning out today, radical left wing, with strong green leanings, able to go in or back your students in protest marches against governments, strong social inclusion beliefs, and so on. If you don’t fit all of these requirements and more then you have no hope. Of course you must also be prepared to constantly go on strike as well for better pay and conditions, and of course much more time off, as today’s teachers don’t ever seem to get enough time off either.

    • 0

      I remember a time when you could walk in and out of a job in Australia. You could change your career if you weren’t happy with your choice.

      Resumes were unheard of and you got trained on the job if you were willing to have a go.

      Employers only wanted your name, address, and date of birth. You didn’t have to have a phone, car but live close enough so that you could get to work.

      The pay was weekly usually on a Thursday and it was cash. You didn’t need to have a bank account, they were only for saving and banks were regulated so they paid good interest for your savings back then.

      Work started to get hard when companies began to go offshore despite making profits in Australia. There were fewer jobs available so employers began to be demanding. They began to want experienced workers where workers got locked into a specific role.

      Then the tax file number came in and the banks were deregulated. Employers and banks wanted your tax file number. Wages were paid into your bank instead of cash. You were charged fees to access your pay and interest was less for savings and higher for loans.

      The Government began to pay companies to employ refugees. Unemployed Australians began to be labeled as lazy. Many began to have a hard time getting work. Companies demanded workers have qualifications and resumes. Australian graduates got jobs.

      TAFEs and Universities became big business for international students and put their fees up. That’s when education debt was introduced for Australians. Now companies demanded workers have higher qualifications, a resume, a car, a phone with work experience. Part-time jobs were created as well as casual. Job security began to disappear.

      All workers have it hard these days not just the old. Jobs are disappearing to technology and machinery in a country that has a wealthy high migration intake and cheap visa workers.

      We were lucky at least we had more work opportunities with job security than the young workers of today. The fact is older workers have always had it hard to find work throughout Australian history.

    • 0

      Sorry to hear your plight…(not sure of your intentions/expectations)
      I`m a very fit (touch wood..touches head)81 yrs…RETIRED 2003 from full time teachingBUT put my name down in LOCAL Schools as a RELIEF teacher!(I lost a lot of my SUPER during the G.F.C 2008 so went out a few days now and again..Built up VALUE ADDED reputation with those schools by getting in early ,marking work AND VOLUNTEERING where necessary!My registration as A TEACHER was due DECEMBER 2019.I re applied and was granted a renewal now available as a relief ($450 a day ).It can be quite taxing but interesting as well.
      have you thought of spreading your net wider….Primary schools,tafe et etc.
      I`m sure you still have lots to offer!OLD SAYING…No matter how you feel GET UP ,DRESS UP SHOW UP…………………………and NEVER GIVE UP!Hope this may help! best wishes

  2. 0

    thrown to the scrapheap a few years ago and now one of the many invisible statistics, the self-funded unemployed … not showing up in the unemployment figures nor in the underemployment population nor ready to become a self funded retiree. Still busy running the bank of mum & dad while waiting for adult kids to flee the nest. Lean retirement years never looked so attractive.

  3. 0

    Why would you employ good well educated Australians when you can get people in on a work visa at half the price and then exploit the person.Wake up Australia you refused to join a union now you now have to wear the consequence.

    • 0

      Floss you are right and don’t forget 1hr a week is a full time job according to the LNP

    • 0

      Absolutely floss !! Years ago now, when workers of all ages were seduced by the temptations/hoohah of Workplace Agreements, believed the media hype of a few bad assed workers Unions and turned away from joining/participating in so many good workers Unions it spiralled downwards. Into a world of casual employment with its exploitation of young workers, the reduction of permanency in jobs, the turning over of older workers for the cheaper more malleable workers etc. Isn’t it coming to the surface now 🙁 The manipulation of the young (not being paid correctly and so on) and the disposal of experienced (relatively) mature workers for the aforementioned pool of innocents 🙁 Topped off by the machinations of successive governments and their manipulations of stats to help keep THEM in employment as long as possible. The next phase has begun also – through biased/BS media turning one (working) generation against the (non working/forcibly) retired generation to take the heat off You Know Who !!

    • 0

      People on a work visa? You think Labor / Unions will help – pigs will fly! Remember Keating destroyed all industries by removing tariffs (car industry, etc, etc, etc all gone), while Trump put Tariffs back to help USA turn things around and get local industries expanding!

      While people here have their petty Labor or Liberal is better futile arguments, BOTH being RUBBISH, I heard the following today on radio:

      The Japanese owned Dairy Farmers, etc, business is planned to be sold to the Chinese (same mob who picked up the Bellamy Infant Milk food business in Tasmania) for $600 Million!
      ACCC (with their blinkers on) have already approved it – nothing for them to see here as after all it is one foreign company taking over from another!
      Now it is over to the FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board), and finally the Govt – to save our Dairy Food supply AND jobs for Australians!

      Australians, keep your fingers crossed – while the sell-out of this country to China continues by these sickening Major parties! Or else. rise up and vote them BOTH OUT!

    • 0

      GeorgeM, Whilst Australians continue to allow donations to political parties, corruption will not stop.

      So many Chinese corporations have taken over thanks to money-laundering donations/bribes.

      None of the parties are charities, they all are taxpayer-funded and should not be receiving donations.

  4. 0

    I was made redundant at 59 years and have not been able to obtain a full time employment for the last 9 years.
    Now on a aged pension and still in casual work ( 4 hours week) trying to catch up all that lost income.The aged pension income restricts me to a $7000.00 a year limit.
    Give hard working Aussies a break and let them work more hours if they can obtain a job.

  5. 0

    Interestingly, where I work we rent out an office next door to us to one of the many unemployment firms supposedly assisting people to find employment. The chap, grey hair, unfit and over 50, this is how he spoke to someone Tuesday..” Hi welcome glad you were able to motivate yourself to get here, many people your age just don’t show up. So your 60, have a bad back, diabetes type 2, a woman and you think you’ll find work? Do you really want to work or do you just want to stay on Newstart until you can retire. I’m just being honest, Ill struggle to find someone your age any work at all.” The woman then went on to explain that yes she did want work and began to list all her qualifications.
    This is not the first conversation of this type he has had with both men and women over 50. Would you feel on top of the world and confident when looking for work with this type of attitude and he is supposed to be helping? He has also had clients in tears and running out of the building. Because of confidentiality issues I can’t report him,… but I’d gladly give anyone the name of the company and where we are to avoid this demoralising man.

    • 0

      history will judge Howard’s Job Network that replaced the CES as one of the great own goals and one of the worst (of many) decisions under his watch

    • 0

      Sounds like this guy doesn’t really want to work himself but has to and is collecting Govt handouts for having this business. There are other ways of telling people it is going to be difficult but you will do your best. Many years ago a family member went to one of these agencies who got paid by the Govt for getting him a job doing night fill in a Woolworths warehouse. I might add this man has a Science degree plus an IT degree and has worked as an IT Project Manager. I also encountered negativity years ago from a CES employee when I tried to get a second job as I was divorced and knew I would end up on the scrap heap if I didn’t earn more money. With a lot of effort I worked out how to get around this person, went to a different office, obtained more information and eventually got a night job you could only get through the CES as they were the ones doing the interviews. It is very tiring but perseverance is everything. Don’t ever give up on yourself and try every trick in the book and a few more. I eventually got quite a pleasant second job I stayed in for years, eventually worked my way up in my day job and am now retired quite comfortably.

    • 0

      The Job Network was one of the early contributions of Tony Abbott as the Employment Minister – using his handbook on how to attack the disadvantaged!

      Here’s an idea – the Govt can save a huge amount (maybe get back into Surplus Budget) if they simply scrapped this completely useless Job Network system.
      All can use computers these days and use their own networks as well to find jobs – if there are any!

    • 0

      Ted, if you are in the office next door and you can hear this there is no confidentiality going on. Report this person or organisation immediately. A few years ago I reported just such an agency to Canberra and it was taken very seriously. Ultimately the agency lost its authority and funding.
      The saying, the standards we walk past are the standards we accept, is quite true. Report this person.

    • 0

      Job providers are only making money, not interested in really helping people. Worse system ever you can read how much they make here:

      17 job seeker per job vacancy
      Newstart recipients lodged 50,000 complaints about their job agencies during the last 5 years.
      1 in 4 Newstart recipients has a significant disability and is being denied access to a Disability Support Pension

      It is costing tax payers over $1 billion dollars per year to run the useless system.

  6. 0

    Are we looking at this situation with old fashioned eyes and not accepting employment change. For the last few decades businesses have been able to cut down on the number of employees because of technology, computers and machines are able to cut staff by about 30% or more. Corporations have been buying up small to medium businesses and centralising so they need less administrative staff. Robots are being used more and more in factories so need to employ less people. Our government needs to look into the future, maybe we’re moving towards a universal wage.
    Older people are finding it difficult to get jobs but so are younger ones as well.

    • 0

      But, you still ‘need’ someone to oversee these computerised systems!

      If you don’t, then there’s a massive overspend on repairing the systems by ‘contractors’ and if the machines break down, then there’s the cost of repair or replacement.

      We live in a ‘throw away’ society when it comes to technology, and the amount of it that gets ‘dumped’ each year is eye-watering. Just because someone who has no idea of how much the machinery costs in the first place says that it’s now over the number of units we can make with it gets rid of it and replaces it with the latest ‘you beaut’ piece of equipment and puts themeselves and the country into debt, as most technology is brought in from overseas.

      What about those who were working in their jobs in the IT industry for 18+ years and just because they didn’t have a Uni degree were/are ‘thrown on the scrap heap’ at 52. This person had all the required skills and was able to quickly and accurately able to quote for a job. The jobs never went over budget, and sometimes were under budget, so he saved the company plenty of money.

      Just because someone has the required education, it doesn’t mean that they have the required customer service skills, or the knowledge of the company to be able to accurately quote a job. Some people these days can’t even multiply or divide by 10 without using a calculator!

  7. 0

    What about those on the DSP who want to work, but are restricted in what they can do? We’re not counted in these statistics!

    I’m a qualified Bookkeeper, but no one wants someone who can only work 8 hours per week, so the time I spent studying has gone to waste. I’ve worked in the customer service and financial services sector for over 40 years, but all my experience has come to nothing due to my limited hours of work availability.

    I’m now on the ‘scrap heap’ awaiting my eligibility for the Age Pension.

    • 0

      You have my sympathy and empathy SuziJ. There appears to be NOTHING for the inbetweeners like yourself and many others. So many groups get left out by the Govt and if you think ANYONE can live on Newstart think again. Everything that Triss says may be true but Australia doesn’t stop taking in other people even when there are not enough jobs for our own.

    • 0

      SuziJ you need to look are procuring work differently too. There are any online agencies or directories where people post their jobs and people lije you can bid for them. Being a bookkeeper you would be able to use your skills eg in accounts receivables or payables to help out a small business who can’t afford a full time person. Or you could help out a BAS time or end of year books etc. I have used online assistants before now for some jobs that needed doing but would only take a few hours. And there are thousands of short jobs out there if people want them. You don’t have to travel, you can stop and start when you want, all you need is an internet connection, a computer and possibly a printer.
      As Triss said, we live in different times now and work and workplaces have changed. But there are still opportunities, they just look different.

  8. 0

    Whilst age discrimination is abhorrent, I would like to remind these younger people that many of you have made derogatory ageist comments yourselves in the past! Is it karma??

  9. 0

    “Are you looking for work without luck? Do you believe the lack of opportunity is directly related to your age?”

    We are retired so we are not looking for work but in the past things were a lot different. Being made redundant in my late 40’s after being with the one employer since leaving school was a blow, especially as all of my work skills were related to that employment and a lot of businesses in that field were also shedding staff.

    I have lost count of the number of applications and cold calling that was done but one thing I do recall is that very, very few employers even acknowledged my application and of those who did only a few resulted in an interview. I’m sure my age was a factor because even if it wasn’t shown, a quick glance at my work history gave an indication of age.

    This topic has had a good run here on a number of occasions and it seems that ageism is alive and well in the employment market, employers are too clever to indicate that age was considered as a reason to not employ an applicant and there is not a damn thing that any politician can do about it. They can posture and strut and say all of the right words but when push becomes shove they are impotent.

    • 0

      Good summary. HC, which many here can relate to very well.

      However, there its one quick thing Govts can do to reduce (not fix) the problem – Ban forced redundancies after age 45, unless a company or it’s Branch office is totally shutting down.

  10. 0

    The percentages are not a True Indication as many just Retire Early than go through this “BS” demoralising process.
    To qualify for New Start there is a Criteria to follow. Without this you are on your own as Employment Agencies only want Government Money, unless you pay a Private Employment Agency no chance. Most Employers use these agency over Paper Classified’s.
    The other Oddity is the Older Employee trains the younger/new arrival.
    If you can afford it just go on your Terms.

    • 0

      Just thought of more items to add, Chris B T, before you can access New Start, you have to use up all of your holiday pay and LSL payments. It’s not when the money runs out but the period covered by those payments. Also if a spouse is working you are ineligible for New Start so the numbers of unemployed are skewed to show less than those who are actually unemployed.

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