Should the Government fork out for midlife training?

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Australia’s ageing population brings with it the probability of increased unemployment of older Australians and further reliance on the Age Pension. So how do we prevent this from occurring? Professor Chris Phillipson, sociologist and former Executive Director of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), believes that midlife education could be the key.

Professor Phillipson proposes that, once people reach a certain age, there should be an entitlement to some sort of learning ‘top-up’. For example, when you reach your 50th birthday, you’d receive a voucher for re-education, to enrich and reskill you for the second half of life.

Recent research backs up the potential efficacy of this concept. It shows that people aged 50 to 69 years who have a non-school qualification were more likely to be employed than those without such qualifications.

So by introducing a system of midlife retraining, we could improve the employment prospects for older Australians and do away with the notion that older people have passed their prime in the workplace.

But how do we do that? 

We could explore the option of the Government providing some sort of midlife ‘voucher’ system for retraining. Many Australians involved in manual employment could then be retrained in fields such as management, administration, technology or education, to minimise physical strain in later years. This would also reduce the projected ‘brain dump’ that may take place once baby boomers retire.

It could also mean that older people could reduce their working hours to a point where they can work fewer hours and receive an Age Pension, but still be making a valuable contribution to society and the economy.

A report by the Actuaries Institute, released in July 2016, predicted increasing numbers of Australians who will deplete their superannuation fund before their deaths. By enabling older Australians to remain employed in later life, it would allow them to keep contributing to superannuation, preventing them from running out of super in later life.

But why should the Government be responsible for providing free, or subsidised, midlife education? Well, if the Government is determined to raise the eligible age for the Age Pension, it should be obliged to assist older people by increasing their employability. There would also be a reduced burden on the health system and a huge bump to our economy. The most recent PwC Golden Age Index found that by employing more Australians aged over 55, we would see a $78 billion annual boost to our economy. It would also improve the quality of life for many older people who suffer from post-retirement social isolation.

Another alternative could be increasing corporate responsibility for midlife retraining, providing flexible hours, education and support to older employees and keeping an experienced workforce with knowledge that could then be passed down to younger workers.

Universities could also play a part by introducing an extension of post-graduate training that includes re-education after a certain number of years in the workforce, thus keeping former students up-to-date with advancements in their chosen field and minimising the chance that their qualifications will be superseded.

The potential benefits go beyond economic factors, including improved health and less reliance on the health-care system. By keeping our brains active, we reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive dysfunction. There would be lower incidents of depression due to social isolation and we would improve the overall view of older people being a ‘burden’ on the economy and society in general, thus reducing age discrimination.

Jeremy Thorpe, PwC economics and policy partner, said that countries with the highest number of people aged over 55 in the workforce, such as Iceland and New Zealand, had employed similar initiatives.

Mr Thorpe said these countries encourage later retirement, thus incentivising people to work longer. These same countries also provide more opportunities for lifelong training, ensuring that workers have the necessary skills to stay relevant in the workplace.

“If people above 55 are employed for longer, they are less of a drain on the pension system, they’re productive, so they’re adding economic wealth to the country,” said Mr Thorpe.

Professor Phillipson believes we need to see a change in how Government money is allocated for education across the life course, to reduce reliance on the Age Pension, the health system and provide a better quality of later life.

If you had the opportunity to be re-educated after 50, would you take it? If so, would you change careers, or improve your skills in your existing area of work? Do you think it would extend your working life? Considering the Government’s intention to raise the Age Pension age and its complaints about having to fund the future of older Australians, do you think this is a good idea?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 41
  1. 0

    Although it sounds like a good idea, I do feel that more needs to be done to get young people into work. The unemployment rate for school leavers and young adults is about 20%, and as they have more years of potential employment (and paying tax) ahead of them than the average 55 year old, wouldn’t it make sense for government to focus on their employment prospects first? Perhaps they should lower the age of pension entitlement and make it easier for older unemployed people to access their Super which they could use to fund themselves while they either look for work, or retire on.

    Youngsters in the workforce would have a purpose in life, they’d be able to plan a future for themselves, maybe buy a home and start a family, instead of trying to live on the dole or single parent pension as many of them do now.

    Just a thought, what does everyone else think?

    • 0

      i was going to post, (tongue in cheek) what a brilliant idea make older people work longer when nobody wants to employ them and cut newstart so the young people have to live with family supporting them.
      Like you say more should be put into getting the younger generation jobs.
      trickle down economics does not work, with interest rates so low we should be spending on infrastructure and creating employment

    • 0

      OK EoT – I agree with educating the young – but what you educate them about is key to what happens when they are older. I disagree about early access to Super – it is a trap that will distort the aiming point of retirees – they will just use it as a bridge to their pension age. That will be their plan – and it aint a good one.

      One thing I know is your younger self has to plan and get educated for your older self to survive. Your young self needs to clearly understand that your older self may not be physically able to work past 55 or some other age – and a plan is required. Hell – the pension might not even exist!

      If I could go back to my pre-teen years and train my very young self about money and consumerism, I would likely have considerably more resources now – instead of starting in my 30s. You can’t knock Einstein’s 8th wonder of the world – compound interest.

      We all have lots of choices to either consume or save during our lives – regardless how much we earn. The government and elite constantly coerce us to spend so we grow the economy – which most people do – be it Prada type junk at the top end or beers at the bottom end of the earning scale.

      The rich and elite are always looking after themselves by getting the masses to spend up so they, the rich and elite, can comfortably retire. It is sadly amusing how the masses so easily rise to their products – and consume their old-age comfort.

      Few ever do plan to look after their older selves – and the economy would be very different if too many did plan – but I believe our younger self has to develop a plan to look after our older self – so you can bridge that gap if required once your older self arrives.

      We don’t plan to look after our older self – but then complain when the government pension age is raised, we lose our job or the pension amount does not match our expectations.

    • 0

      Wow Reasons. Are you planning to write a book on self assessment in the twilight years. I would buy it to see what I missed out. By the way- how does a factory worker who left school at 15 with no academic background suddenly start the higher level of Intellectual stuff like balancing income with outgoing. These blokes- and I know plenty of them- have no idea nor any inclination to “learn” as they are used to being Fostered along for so long, then BOOM they are too old to hold a shovel or drive a forkhoist or bad eyesite etc. I think there would be 25% of the workforce like this- so what is in store for them ???

    • 0

      Oars – no, not writing a book 🙂 – but have trained our kids from an early age so they can benefit – and are still doing so.

      I left school really early as I was academically challenged you might say and went into a trade – but just decided to start teaching myself about finance and tax rules. It was the best thing I could have done – and you don’t have to be smart – just tenacious in your reading and by talking to people who are smarter than yourself.

      I have observed some fairly poorly paid people accumulate some amazing assets in their lifetimes – but as you say – they are the exception and were driven to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.

      BUT – you are correct, most people have no inclination to learn and look after themselves. Consuming and spending is far easier to do than saving and investing.

      And that works well for government and the consumer product sellers.

    • 0

      Reasons – we old bastards are here to advise the younger ones on what they should NOT accept in the way of remuneration, real opportunity in life, and Rights.

      That’s what grand-parents are for….

  2. 0

    There is already a scheme in place – Fee Help. You can gain qualifications in a in a wide range of VET and University courses. You don’t have to start repaying until your income is over $50K odd and your estate doesn’t have to repay any remaining debt after you die.

    I am embarking on a research degree under this scheme.

    • 0

      Good luck – my views, well supported by fact and reality – are far too radical for university academics with their limited approach to a single issue…

      You need to get past that set of social twerps to get the running for any ‘research degree’…. or any ‘qualification’ that will place you in the position of being an ‘expert’.

      That’s why I’m a double Professor Emeritus and they are mostly nothing but mouth-pieces…

  3. 0

    Two separate issues. Pension age is already higher than it should be in light of age related illness and physical capacity of many older people. It would be wonderful if there were more employment opportunities for older Australians. Reduced hours would accommodate many people who would physically struggle with full time work. Unfortunately we are raising the pension age knowing there is no work available for many older people. Currently there is a great need to provide job openings and career opportunities for younger workers so they can get established. Forcing older people to work for longer makes it very difficult for incoming workers.

    • 0

      Alex- I wonder if you have tried getting a job with “some kid” of about 45 years old- young enough to be your son or daughter. They think us oldies are “fuddie duddies” as we don’t chat about their social media junk. I had a great time a few years ago working for a company when I turned 60 to pretend that I was only 50- but the penny dropped when somebody spoke about a footy score and I said I watched it. These kids were looking at a replay- they were only 5 or 6 yrs old at the time the game was played. I watched it live. !!!!

    • 0

      Wait until your ‘manager’ is a Boy Colonel or a Girl General of 20 or so…. no idea but full of ideas and thoughts…

  4. 0

    Our present Lib. government is hell bent in sending Australian jobs over seas a little like the United States, and look where their workers ended up.

    • 0

      What jobs are the government sending overseas? The government employs public servants and as far as I am aware all of these, with the exception of Foreign Affairs staff, are in Australia. The only ones sending jobs offshore are private employers who can’t compete with foreign manufacturers.

    • 0

      It’s called a See Saw. They get our pay and we lose our jobs. We go broke and have to live in their country as it is so cheap. They shift over here with all the Ozzie wages they have been earning. Then we wave at each other in ships as they pass each other every “return to home” day. The travel agents will get a big buck out of it- and so do the surfboard sales ( we wont’ be able to afford to fly back ). Sad. There once was a great countrey that sold it’s last brick- OzZ.

    • 0

      Old Man- you hit the nail on the head. We can’t compete with foreign manufacturers as we have an excessive wage expectation compared with our skill level. One article made in China would cost 10 times that here. But the unskilled worker here lives in a $500K home, has two cars and a holiday each year. On the other side of the water (China) they work 6 days per week, live in VERY humble abodes, and have no car. They walk and take a bus. So that is why we cannot compete. Our pay is not in line with comparative skill level globally.

    • 0

      Thing about the US, Looney – is that they are now beginning to wake up to what they’ve done to themselves….

      Why are we always forty years behind the rest?

    • 0

      Oars.. so we need to drop the price of housing and food and everything else first – THEN we can pretend to compete with countries that offer poverty to the many?

      Can I buy a car built in China for 20% over the cost of productions at the same time as the Chinese economy provides me with a wage that will allow me to do so?


      Seems you’ve missed out on the long-running Trebor discussion of the comparativeness between different economies of rising costs of living v wages, and the discussion of which, costs of living or incomes, needs to come down first if we are to ‘compete’ on the decidedly UNlevel playing field….

    • 0

      Spot on, Trebor. Cost increases have been obscene in some areas lately. Wages may be too high in some sectors, but try telling a cleaner who desperately needs legal help that they earn too much. I got quotes the other day for a simple legal job that 10 years ago cost $1500. The quotes now vary between $25,000 and $40,000. A very simple job fitting an accessory to my car – $640. Should take less than an hour! Rates and electricity have both doubled in way less than a decade. We did an experiment loading the exact same trolley of essential grocery items as we bought 3 years ago and found the cost had risen by almost 50%.

      I remember in the early 70s having an argument with a relative who ran a lucrative business. At the time, there was talk of the government freezing wages. I said prices should freeze as well and the relative went ballistic and spent ages explaining why that wasn’t possible. The whole idea of a wage freeze was to let businesses put their prices up without a corresponding CPI wage rise following!!!!

  5. 0

    People over 50 who are still in the workforce have no need to be ‘re-trained’. They will be continuing to learn and adapt in the workplace just like those under 50 do as changes occur. However, it is a different thing altogether if they have been made redundant over 50 and have to change careers or even try and get a job in the same field. No amount of re-training, upskilling or re-education is going to help if there is no change to the narrow-mindedness of employers who quite simply refuse to employ anyone over the age of 35!! Then I am a little surprised that no-one has pointed out that the over 50s are the same people who had a ‘free’ education first time around. When this penny drops just wait for the outcry at the thought of paying for more education for the ‘freeloaders’ of the past.

    As for the argument about making way for younger people, that is a furphy. Just today there are reports from some of the top universities in Australia that finally acknowledges they are churning out degree holders who are unskilled for the workplace (and who may have studied something that has no workplace relevance), that many do not even complete their degrees and that (shock horror) university is not for ‘everyone’. If we look at children starting school this year, by the time they complete their education, they will be applying for jobs we haven’t even conceived yet. There will be jobs for them, there will always be jobs for them – just not the ones we are used to.

    • 0

      No, No, No, KSS. People of any age need to contue to invest in themselves. That means continue to get qualifications that are in demand. I have continued to invest in my education and at the ripe old age of 69 I have change careers 5 times and shave started 3 business ventures, still have one and sold the other 2. If people think that they can rely on the job they have to keep them retrained, ask the people that work for Holden or Ford how that is working out.

    • 0

      Why is it, do you think, that ‘qualifications’ are in demand, but skills and abilities are not? Is it because those doing the ‘selecting’ have no real idea of what skills and abilities are, and thus must rely on ‘qualifications’?

      Just asking here….

      (history hidden) – I’ve been interviewed by two Commando officers, who, without much thought, KNEW I was the man for a one-man job at night…

      I guess I’m spoilt….

      To me – what is wrong about the current situation is that… NOBODY really knows what they are looking at or looking for…

      We have only to look at Parliament and the clowns we elect to know that for real…

    • 0

      Retired Knowall, the premise of lifelong education is one to which I have subscribed over many years. I too have continued to gather more qualifications most recently Diplomas of Business Management and project Management. The point is I have done those whilst in my current job in part as professional development and in part in case I ‘needed’ the bit of paper. If you read my original post properly you would see I specifically made mention of those whose jobs are no-longer viable and those who have been made redundant.

      Trebor I agree with you about the current selection panels don’t know what they don’t know. They can only go on the number and type of qualifications because mostly they have no skills or abilities themselves and wouldn’t recognise them if they bit them on the bum!

  6. 0

    It concerns me that we’re forcing older people to work longer when jobs for the young are contracting. It makes no sense to me. BTW I retrained for a new career in my mid 40’s through a 4 year degree.

    • 0

      I agree. Forcing people to work longer isn’t creating more jobs. We have nowhere near enough jobs to go around, so we should be looking at ways to fund shorter working hours, more flexibility (particularly for parents of young children to have one parent at home much of the time), and EARLIER retirement.

      Bottom line is that technology is reducing the need for labour. Instead of allowing those implementing technology to claim all the benefit in increased profit, we need to force distribution of the benefit through society in the form of reduced working hours without loss of lifestyle.

    • 0

      Renny. When you say ‘force” to work I assume you have no reall life work enjoyment. I am still working at something I really enjoy. I spent 20 years going through alternatives before I reached this work. I can’t tell you what it is, but I know that most folk enjoy some type of chore, even if it a moderate domestic chore, and getting it done without a winge. Most of our household have similar attitudes- keep busy and the frequency of activity make the day with chores just fly along. Try the attitude _ I will do it !

    • 0

      Well done Oars, like you I will probably be still working until I’m in my late 70’s. If it’s something you love, it’s not work. I’m at the stage of training Uni Graduates but it’s hard to find ones that are willing to apply themselves and do the hard yards first.
      I don’t think anyone will be forced to retrain, they will still be able to sit at home and tell everyone how hard life is.

    • 0

      So in your utopia, there are great rewarding jobs for everyone who wants to work, Retired Knowall? I suspect a lot of folk would want to know where they are and how to access these abundant opportunities.

      The bottom line is that SOME folk get to do things they enjoy and work then isn’t work. And for others work is a daily drudge, physically destroying, soul destroying, and something they crave to finally retire from and have time to enjoy life a little before it’s all over. And the social contract used to recognize this. Now, greed and selfishness has taken over, sadly. There is no longer fair recognition of lifestyle choices or of the impact of denial of opportunity. There is just this vile and disgusting judgmental nonsense claiming ”I am wonderful, and if your life isn’t as good as mine it’s your fault and your a whinger and a no-hoper”.

      Nobody WANTS to sit at home and tell folk how hard life is. But it IS hard for some, and it often ISN’T their fault. It’s because we live in a stinking selfish society in which the privileged look after the privileged and exploit and abuse the less privileged. And some of the less privileged manage to find a way out of their circumstances, and others just struggle to keep a roof over the family – or sacrifice their health and well-being in strenuous or dangerous jobs, or their mental health in jobs where they are bullied or abused. Some encounter crisis that destroys their life plan, and it isn’t always possible to recover and build an alternate plan that delivers satisfaction plus adequate income.

      Stop you ”holier than though” crap and develop some human decency. Yes, Oars is to be admired. So are you. So am I – because I dragged myself up out of severe disadvantage and poverty and, against all odds, developed skills that enable me to enjoy a great job with flexible working hours, working from home, while still caring for a disabled partner. Life is great. But not everyone can do it. And it’s nasty to suggest that they just ”sit at home and tell everyone how hard life is.” Maybe if we all stopped being so judgmental and cruel and focused on understanding why people end up suffering a hard life and how we can help them, instead of persecuting the insulting them, society would improve?

      Read Trebor’s story. He tried hard. He was kicked in the guts at every turn. My partner’s story is similar. Intelligent, capable, ambitious, driven – but every attempt to access retraining or get a suitable job, judgmental idiots looked at background and shook their heads. Orphan. Abandoned. Uneducated. Sorry. No connections. Poor family. Not interested.

      There are people in our society who don’t try, but spend life whinging. That’s a fact. But there are far more who have a very genuine reason for desperately NEEDING to retire under a social contract that promised them a funded retirement and owed a heavy debt by an unjust, unfair, and often downright cruel society.

  7. 0

    I would have loved to be able to access retraining at any age, and so would my partner. But more importantly, I think we need more recognition of skills and experience that isn’t necessarily related to formal training. We should take the focus off pieces of paper, which often are as meaningless as the toys in cereal packets, and find ways to recognize and capitalize on genuine ability. Excessive training is actually killing innovation. When people are TAUGHT to do things in particular ways, they don’t think outside the box and find creative solutions. I’ve seen this repeatedly with my partner – with no formal training – solving problems that totally stump people with impressive education and qualifications.

    I do think re-training those who work in physically demanding jobs might have merit, but we need to remember that not everyone has the aptitude to work in administrative or educational fields. Theories are great, but they don’t work in the real world because people just don’t fit the mould that the theorists want to push them into. We’ve seen that here. A few shout endlessly about how others SHOULD live their lives – don’t take medicines, live on the smell of an oily rag, don’t spend money on treatment for a disabled child, invest more wisely and get higher returns. The problem is that we are dealing with PEOPLE, not robots.

  8. 0

    Here we go again, a qualified academic who has probably never held a job away from the cloistered world of universities has a dream and we have to share it with him. My neighbour left school at 14, got a job as a labourer and retired with a similar unskilled job. I wonder how he would go with a high level management training course and, more importantly, how does he get employment in that field given his experience. Spare us from academics.

  9. 0

    Basically, the government couldn’t give a shit about whether those in their 60s get a job. Newstart Allowance is cheaper than Age Pension.

    • 0

      Genimi – totally and utterly agree! The only reason they want those in their 60’s and older to work, is that – hopefully – they will work themselves into an early grave, thus saving them having to pay anything!!

  10. 0

    If we were operating in full employment economy – there might – JUST MIGHT – be some justification for suggesting that people could retire later….

    As it stands – there is NO ‘full employment’ on the horizon – and thus the only real outcome from this scurrilous push presented by those with already far too much, is to PUNISH those who are older and beginning to become ‘frail’ (whether we are or not – I still get young dicks challenging me over my right to park in the disability space outside the pub – if only they knew in many ways).

    Until those who have their FILTHY hands on the reins actually begin to operate in the same environment of ZERO ‘entitlement’ – something they will never understand until we force them on to the same standards of income and entitlements as WE accept as normal for US – nothing will change.

    We are not here to be the suppliers of cash for their ‘social programs’ or their handouts to their business mates – we are not their serfs or their slaves…

    They are OUR servants and need to be brought to heel -NOW!

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