There’s no better way for me to kick off a New Year, than to renew my mission to enable older Australians to achieve their optimum quality of life. A mission shared by IRT Group’s friends at Edmiston Jones.
When contemplating the theme of my first guest blog, I couldn’t go past mature workforce participation. Why? Because helping older Australians to realise the benefits of engaging in paid work in their 50s and 60s and reducing barriers to this, will help achieve optimum quality of life.
Paid work helps older Australians support themselves financially as they age at a time when costs are increasing and government subsidises decreasing. But more importantly, it keeps them active and engaged, which is good for their bodies and their minds.
That’s why in 2015 we partnered with the Human Rights Commission through our IRT Foundation to sign Australia’s first Mature Workforce Initiative Statement of Intent and hosted a Mature Workforce Participation Roundtable.
We’ve all heard stories of people over 50 actively looking for paid work without success. They’re too “experienced” or can’t find a job that supports their changing needs.
Like myself, many baby boomers are juggling their responsibilities as a parent of young adults with supporting an ageing parent. This means that engaging in employment that requires full-time work or travel may not always be possible. But this doesn’t mean the value of mature age employees is eroded.
Mature age employees are incredibly valuable to our nation. Australia has a booming ageing population, stagnant birth rate and falling number of people of traditional working age. This means that mature age employees will be increasingly important to our economic productivity.
If we don’t enable over 50s to work for longer we simply won’t have enough people working to continue to grow our economy.
In its 2015 Intergenerational Report the Australian Government predicts that almost a quarter of Australia’s population will be over 65 by 2055. Today only 15% of Australians are over 65. In real terms this means there will be 5.3 million more people aged over 65 within 40 years.
At the same time the number of people of traditional working age is decreasing. By 2055 the Government predicts there will only be 2.7 people of working age per person over the age of 65. Currently that number stands at 4.5 people. The scary thing is that in this report, the Government considers people of working age to be between 15 and 65 years.
So unless we can enable people to keep working throughout their 50s and 60s, there’s a real risk that by 2055 the ratio of older Australians to those of working age could be one to one.
The impacts of this would be disastrous. Sky-rocketing pension, health and aged care costs with insufficient people of working age to pay taxes and deliver services. The time to act is NOW. These trends are already emerging, but the good news is we have time to turn them around.
IRT Foundation and the Human Rights Commission are working to do just that through our Mature Workforce Initiative Statement of Intent.
Through our recent roundtable we are raising awareness of the issue and identifying practical steps we can take to reduce barriers to mature workforce participation in the Illawarra. Click here to read more about the outcomes of the roundtable and get involved.
I envisage this will be the start of local advocacy on this issue and serve as a pilot roundtable for other regions.
We also collaborated with the Human Rights Commission on an IRT Foundation Intergenerational Job Share initiative. We recently recruited for a part-time role that lawfully positively discriminated against older Australians.
A mature age employee is now successfully job-sharing with a young mother. Proving such flexible working arrangements can and should be done! I am very proud IRT Foundation is leading by example in this regard.
Another program we are developing with the Human Rights Commission is a Career Check-up for over 50s. We want to encourage older Australians to engage in lifelong learning. To critically review their skills and experience, capitalise on their strengths and improve areas of weakness. This will ensure they keep pace with industry change and are well placed to continue working for longer.
There’s so much to say on this important issue, but I better leave it there… Less is more in the digital age!
If you’re interested in mature workforce participation, please engage with IRT Foundation via our website www.irtfoundation.org.au