Do businesses want older workers?

tony-featherstone-127x127-90x90Tony Featherstone is a specialist writer on small companies and entrepreneurs in WA Today he asks “Do businesses want older workers?”

The Productivity Commission’s call to lift the retirement age to 70 sparked a narrow debate this month. Opinions flew thick and fast on whether Australians want to work that long, are physically capable of working into their 70s, and whether there will be enough jobs for them.

He questions  how companies feel about this issue. 

“Do they want to employ increasingly older workers, and are they set up to meet the needs of workers aged 70 or beyond? Have their Gen-Y managers been sufficiently trained to get the best out of workers old enough to be their grandparents? How do young workers feel about this issue?”

Do the benefits of employing older workers far outweigh the risks of having someone who can no longer do the job, is change resistant, blocks the career path of twentysomething managers, is overpaid because of corporate longevity, and costly to axe?

Moreover, has business thought enough about the costs of an older workforce: higher occupational health and safety risks; potentially higher average wage costs; and what it means for their workforce composition if the balance tips more towards older workers?”

“Where are these jobs for people in their late 60s or 70s coming from?” He asks.

He then questions the small business view. “If we’re hell-bent on having a debate about the need to lift the retirement age to pay for the costs of an ageing population, somebody needs to get the view of large and small business.”

The Productivity Commission Report, An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future, did a terrific job of highlighting this issue, even though the Federal government quickly quashed its recommendation. The Commission’s macro-economic analysis of labour-force participation, population growth, income growth, and possible regulatory reforms, was incredibly useful.

He calls for a report on the employer perspective. “Perhaps a few business associations and industry bodies could do deeper research on this topic, with special emphasis on how small and mid-cap companies will cope with an ageing workforce.”

Between now and 2050, the number of people aged 65 to 84 is expected to more than double, and those aged 85 or over will quadruple to 1.8 million, according to the Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report.

Despite  publicly say nice things about hiring older workers. He sees more companies replacing older workers with ever-younger managers at every opportunity to slash costs. The corporate spin does not match reality. READ MORE

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