Willing to Work Inquiry to Highlight Age-Old Problem

Senior Australians say while the ‘Willing to Work’ inquiry will shine light on workplace discrimination, the bigger issues were its relevance to the current pension and retirement income debate and the importance of Australian business responding to the nation’s changing demographic.

“The inquiry, headed by Age and Disability Commissioner Susan Ryan, comes at a time when the nation’s attention is again focusing on pensions and concessions,” said Michael O’Neill, chief executive of National Seniors Australia.

“Sustainable employment for people in their 50s is one of the keys to limiting the cost of the pension, as is ensuring people maximise their superannuation and retirement income.

“We should understand that people who lose their job in their 50s take the legacy of time out of the workforce – limited savings and reduced superannuation – with them for the rest of their lives.”

O’Neill said it was a long standing issue and limited progress had been made.

“Ultimately, the key to the issue was for business to include mature age employment as an integral part of their model – to reflect the changing demographic of the work force, consumers and the nation generally.”

In New South Wales, for example, it takes an average of 94 weeks for a person aged 55 or older to find work, he said.

“This is more than twice the time – at 45 weeks – which younger job seekers spend out of work.”

O’Neill said the barriers to older people getting and keeping a job were often masked by a vocabulary of exclusion, with those attending job interviews often fobbed off with lines such as ‘you are over-qualified’ or ‘lacking in energy levels’ – code for ‘you are too old’.

“Older people bring lifetimes of experience to the workplace and often the ability to mentor their younger workmates,” O’Neill said.

“Mature age workers have also been shown to be reliable and have less absenteeism.

“It’s time to forget the birth certificate and focus on the resumé!”

Source: National Seniors, May 2015