Australians are now expected to remain in the workforce for longer than ever before due to the increase in the retirement age. With the number of people aged 65+ growing at more than twice the rate of the general population, the pool of younger workers available will gradually decrease over time and older people will need to remain in the workforce for as long as possible.
Prejudice plays a part
Unfortunately, the current situation for older workers doesn’t quite match up to this expectation. We know, for example, that two-thirds of employers say they are reluctant to hire workers over the age of 50, and that people aged 50+ spend around twice as long looking for work as their younger counterparts.
Barriers to older Australians staying in or re-entering the workforce include:
- employers’ negative attitudes towards older workers
- lack of access to appropriate training and professional development
- undervaluing of the skills, experience and wisdom of older people.
Through our work at COTA Victoria, we frequently hear about the distress, poor health and poverty experienced by people who are unfairly excluded from paid employment. It’s clear that Victoria needs a new public policy framework to enable meaningful opportunities for workers as they age.
The way forward
We believe there are a number of steps that can be taken by government and industry to improve the current situation, and we outlined these in our recent evidence to inform the Victorian Inquiry into Sustainable Employment for Disadvantaged Jobseekers.
This inquiry is being undertaken by the Victorian Legislative Assembly’s Economy and Infrastructure Standing Committee, which will provide its final report to the Victorian Government by 30 June 2020. The government will then have six months to provide a response outlining the steps it intends to take to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
For more information read our previous submission Enhancing Victoria’s Economic Performance and Productivity and latest factsheet from the Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) on Legal protections for mature workers.
 Victorian Department of Health & Human Services (2015) ‘Mental health and wellbeing of older people’, 10-year mental health plan technical paper.
 Australian Human Rights Commission (2018) ‘Employing Older Workers’, accessed 29 July 2019.
 Williamson, B. on behalf of ABC Radio Adelaide (2017) ‘Age discrimination: Over 50s search twice as long for work ‘, accessed 29 July 2019.