Background and Context

All Western nations are experiencing ageing populations due to long-term increases in life expectancy and declines in birth rates. Consequently, there are greater numbers of people aged over 50 years, who are expected to live longer than their predecessors. In Australia, the share of the population aged 50 years and older is set to increase from 7.3 million in 2012 to 10.7 million in 2031.

Australian population 50+ (m)


Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, 3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2012, ABS, Canberra. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, 3222.0 - Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101, ABS, Canberra.

Projected number of Australians turning 65, 2014-2050

Projected number of Australians turning age 65, 2014-2050
Source: ABS, 3222.0 Population Projections, Australia, Series B

These demographic changes are leading to a large cohort of baby boomers nearing the end of their working lives. Governments are encouraging people to stay in the workforce longer in order to overcome impending labour shortages. This will require new and effective approaches to assist people to work longer.

Projection of labour and skills shortages

The anticipated labour shortages will result from both population ageing as older workers retire and exit the workforce, as well as a shortage of young labour market entrants. This will generate heightened competition among organisations for skilled employees.

Due to the impending skills shortage, the recruitment and retention of mature age workers is becoming a major business issue. Efforts towards training and re-training older workers are likely to be valuable in filling projected skills gaps within the current workforce.

Mature age workers want and need to work longer

Many older individuals want and need to work longer as there is an increasing reliance on individuals to fund post-employment lives.  However, the process of retirement is often determined by a combination of push and pull factors that are heavily influenced by financial status, the physical and mental ability to work, and the desire to work.

Percentage of 60-64 year olds in paid employment
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, 6291.0.55.001 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, Mar 2014, ABS, Canberra.

For example, poor health, disability, negative workplace attitudes and redundancy can mean older employees are forced into retirement. Other reasons may include having to care for family members or feeling underutilised. The information and resources in this toolkit can help improve retention and prevent the early exit of older employees.

Download the full toolkit here

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