December 5, 2013

Productivity Commission Predicts Retirement At 70 ...?





When the Productivity Commission’s recent report  hit the headlines -  with a proposal to lift the retirement/pension age to 70 - I wonder if many like me thought surely the Commission's key policy advisor was joking?

So this week, being a mature-age unemployee with time on my hands, I dipped into: "An Ageing Australia: Preparing For The Future".

And why was I not surprised to find, that this nifty little page-turner reads like a companion "how-to" manual for Alvin Toffler's, Future Shock?

Fortunately, the report mentions that population ageing is largely a positive outcome. No kidding! And how long did it take the authors to reach that conclusion? However, that’s where the fun and good intentions end.

And, in order for the rest of the population to live unencumbered financially or otherwise, by annoying people who dare to get OLD(!) – the Commission’s chief adviser, stressed the need to keep the “aged” working.

Typically, the only Federal (or perhaps feral?) Member of Parliament, LOVING the idea, is "young one" Wyatt Roy - who, at age 23, is urging the Government to consider raising the retirement age to 70. NOW.

Like before next year, Mr Roy? Or, the next election?

But why Wyatt?

Wyatt says that: "People of his generation will pay more in taxes as the population ages and OLDER people should work longer to help share the cost – and so the government should do more to entice people to stay in the workforce longer."

And many do.

There are the Rock Stars.

We only have to look at septuagenarians: Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. From the odd concert performance - these stellar, mature jobseekers - all continue to add riches to their country’s GDP. They prove that “ageing” can be active, productive, and ...COOL.

However, Mr Roy, even though like good wine, we people of a "certain age” know we can get better with time – we’re not ALL rock stars!

And sadly, the Australian recruitment sector, and employers generally – seem to be of the same opinion. A quick read of some of the research such as the 2015 National Prevalence Survey of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, should no doubt convince him that it will take more than a seismic shift in employer thinking, to get them to take on a mature/older workforce, or at least just give them an interview.

National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill, has said it’s true that the proportion of older people in Australia is increasing - but to speak of the change in “crisis” terms was an exaggeration.

“We don’t accept these forecasts that the ageing population is a ‘crisis’ which is going to drain the government’s coffers.

Reality bites

O'Neill says, “Employers must change their mindset on older workers and recognise, and capitalise on, what they have to offer.

“Grey is the new gold and it’s time the Government, employers and wider society begin to realise this,


“Currently, older Australians want to work but no one will hire them. Lose your job at 50 and the odds are stacked against you getting another one."

“Raising the pension age without providing jobs will see older Australians merely shifted from one form of welfare to another.”

O'Neill has warned against raising the Retirement/Pension age without first tackling the issue of mature age unemployment.

And where does Robert Butler fit into the scheme of things?

In 1968, gerontologist Robert Butler (Pullitzer-prize winning author) coined the term "ageism" - to describe the way society discriminates against the old. He said that: Ageism allows the younger generations to see older people as different than themselves; thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings.

Ageism at work

Canadian website explains how ageism can involve stereotypes and myths, or outright disdain and dislike. And is reflected by attitudes revealed by such simple statements  as: "I don't like working with older people". In some cases, ageism means avoiding contact with older people altogether.

Ageism includes the wide range of attitudes that prevent people from accurately assessing and responding to social problems and conditions of older adults. It can be reflected in discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and services of all kinds.

The fine art of persistent myth-making

It can take the form of “granny bashing” in the popular press (blaming some or all of society’s current economic or other worries on older adults). And, is often reflected in advertisements where older adults are depicted as slow, out of date, and lacking knowledge about new technologies, and where youth are shown as quick and knowledgeable.

It may also be reflected in the media where older adults as a group are characterized as a drain on society or alternatively, as a comfortably cashed-up group - who are unconcerned about the needs of others (in which case, they are labelled “greedy geezers”).

Back to the present

So here's hoping that MP Wyatt Roy, and the Productivity Commission, can be brought up to speed on why mature jobseekers – here and NOW – find it so difficult to get a job in Australia (at 50, 60, or 70), and why many therefore view the Commission's recommendation as laughable.

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Image:via flickr

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