The yawning gap in the plan to keep older Australians working

Font Size:

There’s a yawning gap in the plan to keep older Australians working

A key reason for deciding to retire has to do with getting tired at and through work, how that tiredness affects partners and families. www.shutterstock.com Andreas Cebulla, University of Adelaide

In the past decade a 30-year trend to earlier retirement has been reversed. In OECD countries the average age at which people retire has risen by about one to two years. In Australia the average age has risen from 64 to 65.6 for men, and from 61.8 to 64.2 for women.

For the Australian government, though, this isn’t enough.

In a speech last night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg called Australia’s ageing population an “economic time bomb”.

Over the next four decades the number of Australians working and paying income tax for every person over the age of 65 would fall from 4.5 to 2.7, he said. The proportion of people over 65 in the workforce would therefore have to grow substantially.

The government needs people to keep working and paying income tax to offset spending on age pensions, health care and the like.

Its most obvious policy stick is to raise the eligibility age for the pension, which is now 66 but will be 67 in 2023. Raising it further, however, is something the government has rejected as not on the cards. Instead Frydenberg is talking about more training for older workers to keep their skills relevant.


Read more: How we could make the retirement system more sustainable


But my research with Mikkel Barslund, Jürgen Bauknecht, Nathan Hudson-Sharp, Lucy Stokes and David Wilkinson suggests this is a very small and unappealing carrot.

Our findings suggest there’s a limit to retirement ages rising organically. Because there comes a point where work, especially full-time work, just isn’t something most people want to – or indeed can – do.

The reason has to do with getting tired at and through work, how that tiredness affects partners and families, and the limit to which workplaces have shown themselves capable of accommodating the needs and preferences of older workers.

This is something that can only be addressed by dramatically reconfiguring work options.

The limits of job satisfaction

These conclusions are based on two studies into the experiences of older workers.

These studies have been based on data gleaned from two large European surveys, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the European Social Survey (ESS). SHARE is a database of information on the health, socio-economic status and family networks of about 140,000 individuals aged 50 or older in 28 countries. ESS measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of people in more than 30 nations. The demographics of these surveys means the results are relevant to the Australian population.

The first study used data from SHARE to model the link between the step into retirement, job satisfaction and the factors that shape job satisfaction.

The results found people happy in their jobs retired later than those who were less satisfied with their job and its working conditions.

That’s perhaps not a surprising finding. But what is interesting is that our modelling showed that, if every mature age workers’ job satisfaction was raised to its highest level, the effect on retirement would still be small.

It would add, on average, about three months to current retirement ages.

The effect was stronger for women and those with tertiary qualifications. If working conditions made them more satisfied with their job, they would spend an extra 9 to 12 months in work before retiring.


Read more: Keeping mature-age workers on the job


Job satisfaction is only part of the story, though. The second study, using data from ESS, highlights the obstacle of increasing tiredness to longer working lives. This is so because tiredness after work can adversely affect relationships with partners and families.

Interestingly, the significant factor in the perceptions of partner or family is not the number of hours worked but ability to determine a daily work schedule.

Those with greater influence over their working day were much less likely to find their partner or family “fed up” with their working beyond the time they could have retired. This greater control did not eliminate tiredness, but it appeared to help non-retirees better balance work with home life.

Tangible measures

Our studies do point to a few tangible things that can be done do to make working in later life more bearable.

Improved job satisfaction could come from reducing time pressures, minimising physically demanding work, better pay, skill development opportunities and more autonomy. In particular, greater flexibility over working hours would help.

These are things, of course, that might improve job satisfaction for any worker, regardless of age. But they are within the control of the employer, not the government.

So perhaps what Josh Frydenberg and the federal government now need to talk about is not just a narrow focus on education or training to help older Australians remain in the workforce for longer, but how to encourage better working environments for everyone, regardless of age, gender or occupation.The Conversation

Andreas Cebulla, Senior Research Fellow, South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED LINKS

Many retirees fail to consult their partners in planning

A large number of retired Australians are independently navigating their way through their retirement

How to survive in a low rate environment

If you have your retirement savings in a term deposit, chances are you're watching your income

Stability, integration the keys to improving retirement system

What's wrong with our retirement income system? Plenty, says Michael Rice.

Written by The Conversation



SPONSORED LINKS

Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

COVID-19

Another vaccine ruled out as second blood clot case emerges

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has announced that a second case of blood clots is believed to be linked to...

Superannuation News

Super funds fight for changes to reforms

Your Super, Your Future legislation will be enacted within three months and leading players are weighing in on the impact...

Finance

Ambulance costs around Australia

There should be no hesitation when you have to call an ambulance in an emergency situation, but some people rushed...

News

Four tell-tale signs that you may have a blood clot

A blood clot is a clump of cells and protein in your blood. Blood clots form to slow down bleeding...

Finance News

How much you can save on electricity in your home state

As we prepare to head into the colder winter months, there is good news for those worried about heating costs...

COVID-19

What is thrombocytopenia, and why did it stop the AstraZeneca jab?

Anthony Zulli, Victoria University; Maja Husaric, Victoria University; Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Victoria University Australia's medical...

Wellbeing

Ways to manage death anxiety

Winston Churchill once said: "Any man who says he is not afraid of death is a liar." But while it's...

Food and Recipes

Rick Stein's Autumn Vegie Soup

"One of the rather pathetic realities of the fact that so many of the restaurants in France are disappointing these...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...