Older workers can boost the economy

Harnessing the power of an older workforce could deliver gains of up to $78 billion for the Australian economy, a new report reveals.

According to the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) report, if Australia’s employment rates for workers aged 55-plus were increased to those in Sweden (where 74% of those aged 55-64 are employed), Australia’s GDP could be around 4.7% higher.

The results are drawn from a ‘Golden Age Index’ which measures the extent to which older people remain active members of the labour force. Indicators, such as “employment earnings” and “training”, reflect the labour market impact of workers aged over 55 in 34 OECD countries.

Overall, Australia ranked 16th, with the Nordic region leading the way with Iceland first, Sweden third, Norway sixth and Denmark and Finland in the top 15. New Zealand has been one of the biggest movers going from ninth to second and finished first in the Asia Pacific region.

“The Golden Age Index shows that compared to other OECD economies, older Australians are under utilised in the labour market and our policy frameworks may inhibit their ability to make important contributions to our economic, social and public life,” said PwC economics and policy partner Jeremy Thorpe.

The countries that performed strongly had three labour market themes in common: encouraging later retirement; improving employability and lifelong education and training; and reducing employment barriers for older workers.

“What we’re seeing in other parts of the world is that later retirement and more flexible working policies is good for the economy, businesses and individuals,” Thorpe said.

National Seniors has been on forefront in calling for training and reskilling opportunities, and the dismantling of barriers facing older workers.

Chief advocate Sarah Saunders said both sides of politics had demonstrated a commitment to this over the years.

“That Australia’s mature age participation rates are slowly but steadily climbing, is something we can be proud of. However, we can do better,” she said.

The PwC report was designed to stimulate debate about ageing policy. It argues that keeping older Australians in the workforce for longer increases both GDP and tax revenues.

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