Sep 22nd, 2017
As a sixty-six-year-old with senior industry qualifications, Alister Robertson has met some employers who have not wanted to hire someone his age, despite his experience.
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When he applied for one job a couple of years ago, a young university graduate was hired instead.
"I just felt they didn't want to take someone on at 64 years of age because they knew I would be retiring fairly soon," Mr Robertson said.
"My wife has had the same experiences. We found the workplace management did not want to take on people of our age despite the skills that we might have."
But Mr Robertson has jumped those hurdles and on Wednesday started a new job with PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
As a senior manager in customs tariffs and trade, Mr Robertson will be working as a consultant, mentoring younger consultants and working with clients. He is returning to a role he previously held in the 1990s, but with greater expertise to share with younger workers.
"When this opportunity came up at PriceWaterhouseCoopers I was just very flattered and am taking it with both arms, because it is in the area of my expertise," he said.
A new international study from PwC shows Australia has made the biggest improvement of any country in hiring mature-age workers, jumping four places from 16th to 12th in new OECD rankings.
The data shows that Australia, Germany and Israel have made the biggest improvements in the rankings based on full-time earnings, employment rates and participation in training of 55- to 64-year-olds relative to 25- to 54-year-olds since 2003.
PwC's chief economist Jeremy Thorpe said Australia has moved from middle of the pack to within the top third of the 34 nations.
"We're continuing to improve in leveraging mature-age workers, but we're far behind our closest neighbour, New Zealand, in second place," he said.
"If Australia could boost employment rates for those aged over 55 to Swedish levels – which still ranks lower than New Zealand on the Index – we could potentially add 4.5 per cent to our GDP."
Australia now ranks fifth behind Austria, Greece, Portugal and Belgium in rankings based on full-time earnings. It ranks 13th for employment rates of 55 to 64-year-olds, and has moved into the top third among OECD countries for employment rates of 65 to 69-year-olds, in 11th place ahead of Sweden and Switzerland.
PwC global people business leader Jon Williams said the data showed the employment of older workers does not block the path for younger workers.
"It actually makes our nation stronger, as more workers generates more demand and therefore more jobs in the economy," he said.
"However we need to change our social bias toward older workers. We are stuck in a cradle to grave model of career progression with a stigma towards changing careers and taking a step back."
Catherine Rickwood, founder and chief executive of the Three Sisters Group, said the PwC data was good news but not a reason for complacency.
"It is good and it is clearly not enough. There is still a lot of work to be done," Dr Rickwood said.
"When people are seeking employment over 50 it is far more challenging."
The Human Rights Commission last year identified employment for older people as a challenge.
It found that ongoing, systemic age and disability workforce discrimination was not only a massive drain on the economy but has devastating consequences for individuals.
The national inquiry found that roughly a quarter of the population are 55 and over but they make up only 16 per cent of the total workforce.
SMH Anna Patty 13/07/2017
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