Mature Age employment is defined as employment over the age of 50 years. Many older Australians want to continue to work but find it difficult to get work if they have become made redundant or otherwise become unemployed, often deliberately targeted in redundancy. COTA advocates forcefully removing barriers to a longer working life for Australians and the right of older Australians to work on as long as they wish and are able, including measures to enable that. We support and advocate for employment policies that encourage and support mature age people to work under flexible arrangements, enabling them to change the nature and extent of their labour force participation.
There is an substantial 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.
At June 2017, there were around 251,400 people aged 50 or over receiving Newstart Allowance including 195,000 who have been on income support for 12 months or over. On average, this total group is expected to receive income support for some or all of 26 years over the rest of their lives. Fifty-six per cent are expected to receive income support for some or all of every year for the rest of their lives. If current trends continue, 75 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 10 years, and 74 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 20 years.
COTA believes that while Government can lead the development of appropriate policies; change will only occur when employers address their biases about their recruitment and retention practices in relation to older workers. This can include the assumption that older workers are more appropriate for non-voluntary redundancies or that older workers entering a new industry later in life are not appropriate for entry level work in some sectors. Another barrier for employment of older workers is that workers compensation schemes does not cover workers beyond age pension age.
COTA will continue to advocate that Government substantially improve its programs to encourage increased participation rates of older workers, including a more proactive approach to stamping out age discrimination.