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Do people have an expiry date in the workforce ?

Are we entering the changing of the guard in the business world, where the old school, experienced, suited up worker is being replaced by the younger, relaxed dressed, limited experienced but highly academically decorated model!

Prior to being made redundant in 2016, I had regular conversations with people my age (mid-forties) and above who had lost their job or wanted another job, and were finding it extremely difficult to secure suitable alternative employment. I thought they were being a bit dramatic, maybe a bit picky or even not searching hard enough. But, an AFL player is considered too old if they are 30, so could there really be an expiry date for people in the business world!!

Once older workers have left the security of their job or been made redundant, the average time it takes to re-enter the workforce in some capacity is 72 weeks. If they do re-enter the workforce, they are often underemployed in the same field or have to take work in an unrelated field.

We all know that the Australian government is concerned about the aging population and the effects it may have on the economy, and has attempted to increase the labour force participation of older workers by throwing money at prospective employers, heavily marketing the benefits of older workers, and providing financial benefits to the older worker.

Theoretically this is a sound approach, but it requires full participation of all parties to achieve the Australian governments goal.

From observation within my circle, it seems that the older workers are willing to enter employment or continue employment, but what about the employers?

It appears that employers are not active participants of the Australian Government plan as employers are reducing older workers from their workforce at an alarming rate.

So why do employers see little value in an “older worker” and what is considered an older worker these days anyway!!

When I think about the word older worker I think around 60-65 but it seems that I am a bit misguided. Apparently, that was years ago, and now business sees older workers as 45!!

Sadly, it seems the Australian Government also considers an older worker at 45, with the National Employment Standards identifying anyone 45 years onward requiring an extra weeks’ notice in relation to termination of employment.

Yes, as we get older, we all become more entrenched in the ways we do things and maybe become a bit more practical and less of a risk taker, but doesn’t life experience, old fashioned work ethics, and work experience mean anything these days!!

So, if older workers cannot find suitable employment, or any employment for that matter, where do they get a job?

Well maybe you have heard the old saying ‘If you can’t get a job make one”. It only takes a quick search on facebook, or Linkdin and you may discover the large number of the older working group profiles coming up as ‘self-employed’.

Why are older people more likely to be self-employed? Have they gained enough skills and confidence to go it alone, finally had enough of politics and workplace bitching, or fostering false relationships to get somewhere, or just cannot get a job, so decide to create their own job?

To throw in some stats, of employed men aged 55 years and over, 24% were self-employed, compared with 12% of younger men. Older men working as Managers were most likely to be self-employed (36%), along with those working as Technicians and Trade Workers (30%). Older men employed as Clerical and Administrative Workers were the least likely to be self-employed (11%). Older women were less likely to be self-employed (15%) than older men. However, they were twice as likely to be self-employed than younger women (7%). The proportion of older women employed as Managers who were self- employed (39%) was similar to that of their male counterparts.

With anything, there are always variables and exceptions to the rule such as a level of seniority or field, but evidence does suggest, there is an age where employers view older workers as less attractive to business success.

So, for us experienced workers, understand the state of play, and take it into consideration when developing your plan, whether that be climbing the corporate ladder, changing careers or being your own boss. But do not let this dictate what you want to achieve.

As Confucius say “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop”

Michael Scholz


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