50 is the new 30

50 is the new 30
Last week the Australian Government provided a $10,000 incentive in the federal budget for employers to hire workers over 50.

The Federals Governments own figures show that those over 50 who become unemployed  are most at risk of becoming long term unemployed, so any incentive that encourages employers to hire older workers has to be a good thing, but why do we have to bribe employers to hire older workers and why do older Australians find it so hard to get a job?

For me this does not make any sense at all (maybe because I turn 50 next birthday) and since I wrote my last blog on the changes to the pension age, I have been inundated with messages from older job seekers sharing their stories about the challenges they have faced finding work. Then it really hit home to me earlier in the week when my wife who is currently interviewing for a new job told me she was asked in an interview whether she still had the "passion and the fire in her belly for the work". The implication being, she is too old. Now in the interests of a harmonious marriage I wont share her age but she is certainly younger than me.

So why are so many employers "ageist"? Whether this is a conscious or unconscious bias we could debate for a long time but the reality is, it is true.

I did a straw poll with some of our recruiters to try and understand some of the challenges they have to overcome when presenting older workers to their clients. Perceived lack of energy and drive in older job seekers, concerns about their ability to adapt to change or new technology were the main reasons given. However these issues are not generation specific and with office technology now almost identical to the technology we use at home this can not be used as an excuse either. 

But what ever the reason, companies that ignore older workers do so at their peril. In Australia we have an ageing population and our birth rates have been declining for 40 years so quite simply there are more workers retiring every month than school leavers entering the workforce. So ensuring a business has a strategy to engage and attract older workers is going to essential to their future success, without it they will find it harder and harder to find workers.

And remember with older workers now needing to stay longer in the workforce before they can collect the aged pension and with the average employment tenure in Australia around seven years they still have plenty of years to give. Not to mention their years of business and life experience that you just don't get without age.

If you were running an investment firm, I am pretty sure Warren Buffet would be the first person you would want to hire....and he is 83 years old.

So I asked my wife how she responded to the question and it was fantastic, she said "I don't feel like I have any less passion of fire in my belly for the work I do, than I did when I was in my 20's, I still enjoy my work every day. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to hire someone with over 20 years of experience or just a few", fingers crossed she gets the job!

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Steve Shepherd is the Group Director and Employment Analyst at Randstad, a Fortune Global 500 Company and one of the world’s largest recruitment & HR services specialists. Spanning over 40 countries, the Randstad Group employs over 550,000 people every day with the aim of ‘shaping the world of work’.

Randstad is passionate about matching people with organisations, as when the right people are in place, it can create enormous potential and business opportunities. 
Posted: Saturday, 12 July 2014 - 5:04 PM