29 June 2012

Our ageing population and workforce: The role of recruiters


You probably missed it but earlier in the month Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan presented the Federal government with a paper calling for an overhaul of state and commonwealth laws to protect older workers against structural discrimination that stops them working past retirement.

The report, Working Past Our 60s: Reforming Laws and Policies for the Older Worker, made a range of recommendations about legislative reforms to remove age barriers.

The report included the following statistics from both the ABS and DEEWR to make its case for urgent reform in such areas as 
age limits on workers' compensation, insurance and professional licensing.

  • In 1901, only 4 per cent of the Australian population was aged 65 years or older. By June 2010, this proportion had risen to 13.5 per cent, and is projected to increase to between 21 per cent and 23 per cent by 2041.
  • In the year to June 2010, 71% of Australians aged 55-59 years were participating in the labour market. These rates drop to 51% for people in the 60-64 age group and to 24% for people aged 65 to 69. The number of people who continue to work beyond the age of 70 is comparatively low, ranging between 2.7% and 4.5% since the 1980s.
  • In 2011, the average age at which people intended to retire was 62.9 years (63.5 years for men and 62.0 years for women). Yet the data also shows that Australians leave the workforce earlier than we estimate or intend. The average retirement age for men and women has hovered around 50 for women and 60 for men.
  • Of those older underemployed workers who had actively looked for work with more hours in September 2009, 20% cited 'being considered too old by employers' as their main difficulty.

National Seniors Australia estimates there is an economic loss of $10.8 billion a year to the Australian economy for not utilising the skills and experience of older Australians.

Recruitment agencies that can effectively do these three things will have a very big advantage over their competitors who remain obsessed with satisfying their clients' demands for potential employees that are ‘pretty, young, and skilled'.

I see the role of recruitment agencies as being very important in:

a) assessing the skills, competencies and motivation of older workers, (ie not making any assumptions about capability and suitability purely based on age)

b) representing these older workers to our clients in a way that does justice to the individual capabilities of these older workers and (most importantly)

c) rebutting unsubstantiated client objections based on age-related generalisations (eg not a ‘cultural fit', not ‘strong enough' etc)

Recruitment agencies that can effectively do these three things will have a very big advantage over their competitors who remain obsessed with satisfying their clients' demands for potential employees that are ‘pretty, young, and skilled'. 


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