A new report on job availability for older people has prompted calls for an urgent overhaul of Workforce Australia to help break down employment barriers as more of the demographic attempt to return to work.
Anglicare Australia’s Jobs Availability Snapshot showed that despite the rise in older people looking for work or attempting to come back out of retirement, mature-age workers over 55 make up just over half of people on the JobSeeker payment.
The Snapshot also showed it was taking older people an average of five years or more to obtain employment.
This has prompted calls for Workforce Australia to reconsider the function of their employment services to help provide more entry-level job opportunities for older people.
“For [each] entry-level vacancy, there are fifteen people looking for work,” said Kasy Chambers, Executive Director of Anglicare Australia.
“The job market isn’t working for everyone. It’s failing those who need the most help to find work – people applying for entry-level work.
“We need to create entry-level jobs for people who need them. That will allow older people to start again, and give them a pathway to secure [a] career.”
Ms Chambers explained that age discrimination and the demand for experience and advanced skills when recruiting employees are barriers older people face when looking for work.
A recent National Seniors survey of 4,000 older people also identified ageism as a critical barrier to accessing employment, often seeing older people shut out of the race to secure a job because of their age.
The fortnightly JobSeeker payment was also identified as a problem, proving too little to live on and forcing older people into poverty.
“The number of older people on [this] payment is growing every year… Instead of preparing to retire, too many people are spending their later years in poverty,” Ms Chambers said.
“People over 55 are no longer allowed to meet their mutual obligation requirements with volunteering. That rule doesn’t help anybody and must be reversed.
“And if we want to stop people from retiring into poverty, then we must raise the rate of JobSeeker.”
Earlier this month, older people of Age Pension age and eligible veterans were granted the ability to earn an additional $300 a fortnight from working without causing a reduction in their pension, due to recent interim changes to the Work Bonus.
Changes to these pension income thresholds could see older people kick down some of those barriers as many employment areas are in need of workers.