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Ageing and the Barriers to Mature Age Labour Force Participation in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) projects that, between 2011 and 2020, the number of persons aged 50 and over in Australia will increase by more than 22 per cent. By 2050, the number aged 50 and over will have increased by over 80 per cent, or by 6.4 million.

In comparison, the number of persons aged 18 to 49 is projected to grow by just over 35 per cent by 2050. This important demographic change, ceteris paribus, implies a greater role for mature age Australians both economically and in society more generally.

In particular, individuals, firms and all levels of government can benefit from the economic contribution of older persons through paid employment. Indeed, the Intergenerational Report cited strengthening the labour force participation of older persons as a key priority to better manage the policy challenges presented by population ageing.

In this context, the Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan MP, and the Hon Kate Ellis MP, the Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare, tasked the Consultative Forum on Mature Age Participation (the Forum) to provide advice to the Australian Government on practical solutions to address the barriers to labour force participation of older Australians. The specific areas that the Forum, consisting of seniors’ organisations, business, training and trade union representatives (see Appendix A for a list of members), are to provide advice on:

a. employer and community attitudes toward mature age people; age-based discrimination

b. re-skilling and career transitions for mature age people; suitability of training, personal barriers to participation (health, injury and disability or care-giving responsibilities)

c. industry and occupation-specific responses for supporting workforce participation of mature age people; new labour market opportunities; small business development

d. retention of the expertise of older workers (for example, through mentoring, flexibility and part-time work)

e. employment-related assistance for older workers (including employment services)

f. underemployment and hidden unemployment.

It is timely then, that the Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians has been tasked with preparing a series of reports detailing the economic behaviour of older persons. The economic role of older Australians is extensive—covering that of consumer and producer in both the public and private spheres. This report considers one form of the economic contribution of older Australians, that of paid work in the formal labour market.

The outline of the report is as follows:

a. a brief background of the challenges of mature age employment participation in the context of population ageing in Australia is provided.

b. fourteen barriers to mature age employment are then listed, with the ranking of these barriers by their importance according to the Forum also presented.

c. for each of these barriers, the past literature, evidence of the operation of the barrier and current Government responses are described.

The Forum will present its final recommendations to Government following further consideration of the barriers and in response to the outcomes of the Forum’s research agenda which includes a National Survey on the Barriers to Employment for Mature Age People.

To download the full report, please complete and submit the form below.

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