Governments get a big “F” for employing older workers

Governments, both federal and state, lag well behind the private sector when it comes to employing older workers, a new report reveals.

Using ABS and Census data, the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre report - Past, present and future of mature age labour force participation in Australia - highlights variations in rates of ageing and mature age participation across the country.

An interesting finding is a marked decline in the proportion of people aged 60 and over employed by governments. For example, around 16.4% of men aged 50 to 59 work across national, state and local bureaucracies, but this falls to 12.7% for men in their 60s. Women drop from 24.2% in their 50s to 20.1%.

Conversely, private sector employment actually increases as people age.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said the findings were surprising considering Treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent emphasis on the costs of population ageing.

“Government threats to raise the pension age, when they don’t employ older workers themselves, are a bit rich,” O’Neill said.

“The public service should represent the gold standard in hiring and retaining mature age staff. Instead, public servants aged over 60 are a rare breed across the country.

“When it comes to employing senior Australians, governments, both federal and state, get a big ‘F’.”

The report concludes that an ageing workforce underscores the importance of addressing the barriers to mature age employment from age limits on workers compensation to discriminatory recruitment practices.

“Unless governments lead by example and stamp out age discrimination, Australia’s mature age participation rates will continue to lag behind those of other OECD countries,” he said.

In 2012, 14% of the population was aged 65 and over. This is projected to increase to 20% in 2042. The proportional decline in the “working age” population (15 to 64) may result in wage inflation and lower productivity.

Earlier research conducted for the Human Rights Commission indicates that just a 5% increase in paid employment of Australians aged 55-plus would add $48 billion to the economy annually.

Read Past, present and future of mature age labour force participation in Australia: How do regions differ here.

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