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Older Workers Needed in Future Workforce

  • Published: 2010-10-07 : Department of aging, Disability and Home Care.
  • Synopsis: Essential to bring older workers back into the workforce if future labor requirements were to be met

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The Minister for aging, Peter Primrose, said today that it was essential to bring older workers back into the workforce if future labor requirements were to be met.

Mr Primrose made the comments today at the launch of a paper on Employment and retention strategies of older workers on the eve of the International Day of Older Persons.

The discussion paper, which was prepared by the Office for aging on behalf of the NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on aging, recommended that further work was needed to:

Promote increased employment and retention strategies for older people;

generate a community awareness campaign to educate and encourage employers to recruit and retain older people;

develop strategies that are appropriate for private sector employers and public sector employers; and

develop a suite of resource information for employers on the benefits of employing older workers.

Mr Primrose said the report highlighted the skills and experience older workers could bring to the workforce, as well as changing demographic trends.

"Governments work with the business community in identifying barriers to workforce participation, to create organizational and cultural change and promote the benefits of mature workers."

Mr Primrose also said that possible future skills shortages could benefit older and more experienced workers.

"There are many organizations and businesses that already recognize the benefits of retaining older workers, both in terms of cost, and in the ability to pass skills on to a younger generation of workers."

"Bosses will need to adopt strategies to retain older workers and this will mean older workers will be in the box seat as companies adapt to changing demographics."

Mr Primrose said the 55-plus age group represented 15% of the total workforce in Australia and was a significant and essential component of the labor market, which would be very expensive to replace with trained workers.

"There is also a wave of workers in the 45-54 age group who are moving through and will provide the fastest growing labor market segment in the next decade," Mr Primrose said.

"Australia is currently ranked 13th among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries for labor force participation of workers aged 55 and over with an average of 60% participation across male and females in this age group."

Mr Primrose said that despite the benefits for companies in employer older workers, those aged 55 to 64 years had more difficulty finding work after becoming unemployed than their younger counterparts.

"Data show that the duration of unemployment for mature age workers over 55 increased from 57 weeks in May 2007 to 73 weeks less than two years later," he said.

Mr Primrose said statistics revealed that of all people currently employed, 9% intended to retire when aged between 55 and 59 years, 40% intended to retire aged 65 to 69 years and 24% intended to retire when aged 70 years or over.

The NSW Government's Ministerial Advisory Committee on aging held a round-table with public sector organizations, industry employer groups and employers in November last year to discuss how to retain older workers.

The NSW Institute of Public Administration will hold an aging Workforce Conference on October 13 to discuss some of the issues raised in the report.

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