We all know the Australian population is ageing. And with improved health care this trend will only increase. On the flip side of that, there is an apparent reluctance with many employers to take on ‘older’ staff. Let’s take a look at why that is, why it’s unhealthy for their business, and what employers, and potential employees can do about it.

A Few Important Statistics

In 2018/19, the actual retirement age was 55.4 years. But research indicates the intended retirement age was 66. This suggests that a large number of people were forced into retirement before they were ready. Of course, some of this can be accounted for by illness or the need to care for a partner, but many people gave up looking for work in the face of age discrimination.

In fact 27% of people over 50 indicate they have experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace.

If we look at the Australian working age population[i], around 60% of people are aged 45 or over. So by ignoring older workers you are discounting nearly two thirds of the potential workforce pool.

statistics over 45 job market

    Let’s Bust Some Myths

    According to recent research, there are four key reasons employers site for not taking on older employees:

    Myth 1. Proximity to Retirement – In fact, when you look at the figures, a 25–34-year-old is likely to stay with an employer an average of 2 years and 8 months, while an employee who is 45 or older will stay on average 6 years and 8 months.

    Myth 2. Salary Expectations – According to research, the average salary for a 21–34-year-old is $1,127, moving up to $1544 for 45–54-year-olds, but for those 55 and over, it drops to $1,373, making them pretty cost effective.

    Myth 3. Health Concerns – Many employers are worried older employees will require more sick leave, but research by the Department of Education, Skills and Training confirms they take fewer sick days, do so less often, and return to work faster after sick leave than younger cohorts.

    Myth 4. Ability to Learn New Skills/Technology – In fact, older employees are eager to learn new skills to support their cognitive function and are often more patient and committed to deeper learning.

    benefit of employing older workers

    Benefits to Employers

    There are a huge number of benefits to an employer in taking on an older worker.

    • Emotional Stability – older workers have more emotional stability which means they are a calmer influence on those around them
    • Reliability – as I mentioned earlier, older workers are more likely to stay longer term and show stronger loyalty than younger workers who are looking to progress their career
    • Experience – older workers bring not just hard skills for the role, but those softer skills of conflict resolution, teamwork and wisdom that can help make them a mentor or role model for younger workers
    • Work Ethic – honed over many years in the workforce, older workers generally have a sharp sense of worth ethic
    • Diversity – we all know the importance of cultural and gender diversity, but age diversity can bring an increased richness to any organisation

    Benefits to Employees

    Often times people can’t wait to retire. But the reality is not always what they expect. Boredom and cost of living pressures can mean returning to work has a great deal of appeal. Working, and the engagement with others it brings with it, can improve cognitive function, improve mental health and give purpose and structure to your time. 

    Benefits to the Community

    With an increasingly aged population and growing inflation, the pressure on funding for the Aged Pension is mounting. Keeping people in the workplace longer reduces this pressure, and that’s good for our budget bottom line, and for all Australians. 

    A Word About Discrimination

    Most companies these days have gender, race, and religious discrimination policies, but many have neglected to add age to that policy. A review of your Discrimination Policy to ensure you have this covered is an important first step in ensuring you don’t miss out on the rich seam of talent that can be mined in the over 45’s workforce.

    A Few Tips on Looking for a Job over 45

    1. Have a professional update your resume, especially if it’s been a while since you last looked for a job. It’s important that your resume conform to current trends. And don’t put your age on it. Let’s not give employers a reason to reject you before they even meet you.
    2. If you don’t already have one, set up a detailed LinkedIn profile. This will help showcase your skills and connections and you can be sure a potential employer will be looking at it before interviewing you.
    3. As with anyone going to an interview, make sure you look your best. If your clothes look tired and worn you won’t be at your best, so if you can, wear something new and appropriately stylish.
    job interview tips

    4. Make sure you highlight any technology skills you have. If this is an area of weakness for you, see if there is a community college course you can take that will brush up your computer skills before you start looking. This also shows your willingness, and ability, to learn new skills.

    5. Don’t be modest about the skills, particularly the soft skills like conflict resolution, you have picked up along the way. Often they are more important than the hard skills because they take longer to learn.

    6. These days many interviews are conducted over a video link, like Zoom or Skype. If you haven’t used one before, familiarise yourself. Practice with friends or family until you are completely comfortable.

    7. Be honest and realistic about both your retirement plans and your salary expectations.

    With the unemployment rate as low as it is, finding quality staff is only going to get tougher. For employers, broadening your mind to consider older workers will not only ensure you have the number of staff you need, but will undoubtedly enrich your work environment and pay dividends on your bottom line.

    If you are looking for new staff, need help with your recruitment strategy, or are looking for a new job to challenge you, Katz Recruitment can help. Give us a call on 0405 499 228, or contact us here.

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    [i] Over 25