The International Day of Older Persons is an opportunity to consider the contribution made by older Australian workers and the importance of creating age friendly workplaces.
The percentage of Australians aged 65 and over in the labour force doubled between 2000 and 2015 – and 20% of people over 70 are still working. We need to continue this trend so individuals can contribute and continue to earn money to support their retirement years.
Benefits to the Australian economy as a result of increased workforce participation are also well established, including increased gross domestic product (GDP), reduced overall welfare expenditure and increased self-reliance in retirement.
Deloitte Access Economics estimates a 3 per cent increase in participation by the over 55s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy.
However, age discrimination is a major barrier. In a recent survey by the Commission with the Australian HR Institute one in three organisations indicated there is an age over which they are reluctant to recruit – the majority of them nominate age 50 as “too old”.
ABS data confirms that older workers take up to twice as long to find work compared with younger cohorts.
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said it was deeply concerning that some employers were still reluctant to hire people over 50.
“Age discrimination in employment is tied to damaging, dated and inaccurate ideas about older workers. As we live longer and healthier lives it is crucial for people to be able to contribute through the paid workforce, which is not only good for the economy and workplaces but contributes to a sense of meaning and purpose for individuals,” she said.
There are demonstrable benefits in fostering multigenerational workplaces. For the first time we have five generations at work together and employers who create multigenerational teams can access enhanced productivity and creativity.
Cross-mentoring allows each generation to share experience – for example, older workers on managing difficult clients or dealing with a downturn, younger workers on new ways of looking at problems.
It’s not about preferring one generation over another.
“We need the strengths and different skills brought by all generations in the workplace if Australia is to meet the challenges of a changing workplace,” said Dr Patterson.