A STEADY and reliable work history, followed by a welcome retirement with an age pension to ease the financial pinch.
That’s the dream but not the reality for many baby boomers who find themselves unemployed and seemingly unemployable, yet too young for a pension.
As the government raises the age at which people qualify for the age pension, more and more unemployed older people are languishing on Newstart and living below the poverty line, left behind by a rapidly changing workforce, age discrimination and a lack of jobs.
Even those still employed report pressure to quit or retire from colleagues and managers, patronising attitudes and derogatory comments, negative assumptions about their skills, learning ability or cognition based on age, limited or no opportunities for promotion or training, and working for organisations where older workers are undervalued.
In July next year the age at which Australians can access the age pension will rise from 65.5 to 66. By 2023 it will reach 67 and the government has so far refused to rule out a proposal to raise the qualifying age to 70 by 2035.
Superannuation still hasn’t been around long enough to substantially help low income earners or those with broken work histories, such as women who took time out of work to care for families, the self-employed and those made redundant in their 40s and early 50s.
Recent budget proposals of $10,000 in Restart wage subsidies for employers recruiting people over 50 and funding to upskill mature age workers have failed to impress advocacy groups.
“Many professions are just too physically demanding for people as they age, not to mention how the nature of work is technologically changing, leaving many people with outdated skills,” said Combined Pensioner and Superannuants Association senior policy officer Eliza Littleton.
“These blue-collar workers, tradies and people in disrupted industries who don’t make it to 70 in their jobs may face well over a decade on Newstart, which is one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the OECD.
“Even now people over the age of 45 make up 50 per cent of those living on Newstart.
“This meagre payment of $38 a day is not enough to live on short term let alone long term.
“Clearly, a policy to increase the pension age to 70 without a substantive employment strategy for older people is a disastrous policy.”
Recent research by the University of South Australia’s Business School shows just how tough it can be for older people to stay in, or get back into, the workforce.
In its report Work Well; Retire Well, Findings from the Work, Care, Health and Retirement: “Ageing Agenders” Project 2017, almost a third of people surveyed reported experiencing discrimination. The degree increased with age.
Some respondents said they had minimised health conditions, concealed their age or maintained a youthful appearance to counteract potential treatment based on age.
Older interviewees seeking employment described the process as challenging, frustrating and dispiriting. They reported being candidly or surreptitiously rejected through recruitment processes on the basis of their age.
Education, training and a steady working history were not guaranteed to help in the search for employment.
Jobseeker services were considered ill-equipped to assist older, highly experienced and often well-educated adults, and it was suggested that some employers or recruiters dismiss older jobseekers for fear of imminent retirement, therefore representing a risky staffing investment.