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What we know about older working Australians

Whether by necessity or choice, a growing number of Australians are working beyond what we have traditionally thought of as ‘retirement age’. In 2006, 8% of people over 65 were working, and by 2018 it was 13%1. In fact, labour force participation by people 55 and older has never been higher. What’s more, it’s expected to rise even further as retirement age increases to 67 years by 2023. Our tax and superannuation system, with salary sacrifice and voluntary superannuation contributions, also provide added incentives to keep working longer.

An older workforce brings its own challenges. However, this change also coincides with forecasted workforce shortages in Australia. To ensure success, organisations will need to be able to attract and retain older, skilled workers2.

Professor Carol Kulik, Centre for Workplace Excellence at the University of SA has observed, “Older workers are more loyal to organisations, tend to stay with employers for a long time, and don’t take many sick days”3. A strong work ethic and attention to detail are valuable assets of older employees.

Here’s what else we know about older working Australians
  • Australians are living and staying healthy, longer, and that has translated into longer, more productive careers.
  • In the past year, there has been a 38.72% rise in the number of people over 65 looking for full-time work, but only an 11.12% rise in those finding it.
  • Mortgage burdens have spiked for those aged 55 to 64. In 2001 around 80% were mortgage-free. This plummeted to only 56% in 20164. This has increased the need to keep working.
  • The global financial crisis took a bite out of the superannuation savings of asset rich and cash poor Australians, forcing some older employees to work longer.
  • Changes in Australian industry, with shrinkages in construction, manufacturing and agriculture sectors have created more opportunities for older workers. The service sector, which now accounts for around 80% of Australian jobs, tends to be less physically intensive.
  • Older workers are concentrated in management and professional roles. However, they are also overrepresented in traditional blue-collar occupations.

Organisations that enable employees to work flexibly can help keep older staff members in the workforce. To succeed, they should consider developing a workforce culture that does not discriminate against older workers. This can be achieved by implementing strategies across the organisation to support older employees, providing training, promoting health and wellbeing, designing jobs that fit their needs, offering sufficient recognition and rewards, and assisting in financial and career planning5.

Many individuals do not want to retire, and instead may be forced out of the workforce once they reach a certain age. If someone wants to carry on working, they should find something that makes them happy and be enabled to do that. No matter their age!

1 ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/319
2 hiringlab.org/au/blog/2017/11/15/older-australian-workers/
3 abc.net.au/news/2019-09-09/older-australians-in-the-workforce/11485414
4 ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/319
5 hiringlab.org/au/blog/2017/11/15/older-australian-workers/