With an ageing population, it is important that long-term policies are put in place to encourage older Australians to re-enter the workforce and to help overcome discrimination against employing older workers.
Improving with age: Increasing the participation of older workers
in the workforce has a host of benefits.
Increasing the participation of older workers in the workforce has a host of economic and social benefits and businesses can benefit from the experience, common sense and wisdom such workers bring.
It is for this reason that CPA Australia welcomes the government’s "Restart Programme" as announced in this year’s Budget, and which is proposed to commence 1 July 2014.
Under this program, the Government will pay employers a payment of up to A$10,000 if they hire a job seeker who is aged 50 or over, who was previously unemployed for a minimum of six months and they employ that person full time for at least six months.
Under the proposed program, payments will commence after the worker has been employed for six months and will be paid in the following installments:
- A$3,000 after six months of employment
- A$3,000 after 12 months of employment
- A$2,000 after 18 months of employment
- A$2,000 after 24 months of employment
For eligible workers employed on a part-time basis, the subsidy will be available on a pro rata basis, with the condition that the employee works a minimum of 15 hours per week.
To help pay for the Restart Programme, the government proposes to abolish the mature age worker tax offset from 1 July 2014.
The government’s view is that encouraging mature age workers to participate in the workforce can be done more effectively through direct payments or incentives to employers rather than payments through the tax system to employees.
"Businesses have to come to the party in a concerted effort, particularly in the face of an ageing population." – Alex Malley
According to a joint press release from the Treasurer and the Minister for Employment, the Restart Programme is worth A$524.8 million over four years. The Budget papers state that abolishing the mature age worker tax offset will save A$$760 million over four years.
The joint press release also estimates that the program could benefit up to 32,000 mature age job seekers each year.
Commenting on the initiative, the former CPA Australia's chief executive Alex Malley stated: “CPA Australia welcomes this initiative designed to get older workers back in the workforce but businesses have to come to the party in a concerted effort, particularly in the face of an ageing population.’
Even with all the benefits that a business can gain from hiring mature workers, it remains to be seen if this sizeable incentive payment to employers is sufficient to encourage them to hire mature age workers over younger workers.
It is likely that while the program will be somewhat successful, its success will be limited by the bias many employers inadvertently or otherwise have to recruiting mature age staff.
In other words, while the program is a worthwhile initative, a significant cultural change is still required in many businesses before we see greater participation of older people in the workforce.
An ageing workforce will necessitate a change in culture, but for many that change can’t come soon enough.
Gavan Ord is CPA Australia’s policy adviser, business environment.