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Older workers: research readings

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3 November 2011

ISBN 978 1 921955 48 8 print; 978 1 921955 47 1 web

Description

One of the significant challenges facing Australia is the ageing of the population. This challenge has led policy-makers to consider how older workers can be kept in the workforce. To help generate discussion on older workers, NCVER commissioned six researchers to draft essays on various issues around keeping older Australians engaged with the workforce. These essays, and responses by six additional discussants, were presented at a roundtable held in Canberra in May 2011. Themes to arise from the roundtable included the need to consider the diversity of older workers, the challenges of low literacy and numeracy skills for some older workers, discrimination and stereotypes, and the recognition that not all older workers want to keep working.

Summary

About the research

One of the challenges facing Australia is the ageing of the population. Of major concern, especially to government, is that the dependency ratio — a measure of the burden that economically active persons carry by supporting dependent persons — will increase significantly unless older people keep working or immigration is used to change the demographic profile of the population.

In the latest intergenerational report, the Australian Government identifies a number of education, employment service, and income support initiatives designed to increase participation of older workers. The Consultative Forum on Mature Age Participation, launched as part of the Productive Ageing Package in 2010, will assist in identifying opportunities for the government to further support employment for mature-aged workers.

To help inform the consultative forum, and to generate discussion on older workers more broadly, NCVER commissioned six researchers to draft essays on various issues around keeping older Australians engaged. Topic areas the authors touched on included: international trends in ‘active ageing’; age discrimination; determinants of labour force participation; the economics of population ageing and the effects of superannuation reform; the nature of workforce participation and under-participation; and employability and training. Discussants were invited to present and respond to these essays at a policy roundtable held in May 2011. The essays and the discussants’ responses are contained in this volume, which also includes an introduction that distils the major themes.

The major themes were:

  • the need to recognise the diversity of older workers
  • the challenge of low literacy and numeracy skills for some groups of older workers
  • issues around discrimination and stereotypes
  • lifelong learning as a core concept in modern careers, aligned with the notion of active ageing
  • that it should not be assumed that all older workers want to keep working.

I hope the essays and responses are a useful contribution to continuing discussions around keeping older Australians engaged.

Readers may also be interested in the reports coming out of a three-year program of research, Securing their future: older workers and the role of VET, funded through the National VET Research and Evaluation Program . The research, conducted by Chris Ryan and Mathias Sinning at the Australian National University, investigates issues such as the literacy and numeracy skill use of older workers in the workplace and the characteristics of people who work beyond standard retirement age. These reports are available from the NCVER website.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER

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