National Willing to Work Inquiry Into Employment Discrimination

COTA congratulates the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for conducting the Willing to Work Inquiry. We welcome the opportunity to contribute our views on this important issue.

There seems to be an extraordinary degree of international consensus about the need for a longer working life (often called active or productive ageing). Policy makers argue for it from the point of view of the three ‘p’s of economic growth (population, participation and productivity), the dependency ratio facing future generations and the public expenditure required to support an ageing population. Some older people and their advocates argue for it as a right, on the basis of the economic, social and health benefits it offers to some older workers. Yet, despite this consensus a number of barriers to a longer working life remain in place.

COTA supports removing barriers to enable a longer working life for Australians and the right of older Australians to work on as long as they wish and are able.

At the same time, we also argue that a greater understanding is needed about the impact of longer working lives on individual older people and on our society. Some of our key concerns are as follows:

  • What do we know about the health and other circumstances of Australians over the age of 65, across all their varied population segments, both now and projected into the future, and how that will affect their capacity to work on to 70 years and beyond?
  • What will happen to those whose health does not allow them to work on into later years if government uses levers such as older pension eligibility and superannuation preservation ages to enforce longer workforce participation?
  • What will be the implications for the many people with illness or disability who currently rely on older family members to care for them, usually on an unpaid basis, if those carers are continuing longer in the paid workforce? What are the fiscal implications of this?
  • How will the substantial volunteer contribution of older Australians in the community be replaced (or not) if they are working longer? What are the fiscal implications of this?
  • What are the implications for workforce participation by parents of young children (particularly women) if the large number of grandparents who currently provide very substantial amounts of childcare to grandchildren extend their own working lives? What are the fiscal implications of this?