In the recent Federal budget, the government announced cash incentives to encourage employers to hire older workers.
By Tim Fung
Steve E, a 55-year-old former teacher from Victoria, found that his lifetime of work experience counted for nought when eager young graduates were willing to work for almost half his wage. As with many older workers, he says he was “given the short shrift” by short-sighted employers.
“Somebody my age has a number of skills; we’re Jack of all trades,” he says.
Steve wanted to keep active (“I’m not the kind of person who can sit on my backside doing nothing”), so he joined online outsourcing site Airtasker and started completing odd jobs ranging from gardening to painting to courier work. He has become one of the most successful Airtasker users, completing over 70 tasks and garnering dozens of five star reviews.
Steve is far from an isolated case - while older workers are excluded from many traditional workplaces, their skills and experience are being snapped up daily across the country on Airtasker. Seniors are the fastest growing category of workers on the platform and the top demographic on our Leaderboards.
Rod A, 60, a former Silicon Valley software veteran with 30 years experience, found that the more experienced he became, the less employers wanted to know him.
Senior workers on Airtasker tend to be less focused on monetary achievement and more interested in serving people well.
“I quickly discovered no one gives a technical job to anyone over 30. They just throw your resume in the rubbish,” he says.
Now back in Sydney, Rod, 60, is one of the most successful workers on Airtasker, completing jobs ranging from handyman services at a bondage and discipline house to adding an iPod connection on a 1933 valve radio.
Age discrimination costs the Australian economy about $11 billion a year, according to the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan.
In the recent Federal budget, the government announced cash incentives to encourage employers to hire older workers. Paradoxically, as the aging population places increasing strain on the public purse, in many industries we are failing to take advantage of the productivity and skills of older workers who are still very much keen to work.
At Airtasker we are trying to pioneer a new way to work where people of all ages are valued for the skills and experience they offer. We allow anyone to be a “micro-entrepreneur”.
The senior workers on Airtasker tend to be less focused on monetary achievement and more interested in serving people well and creating a great experience, which is a fundamental part of a successful business.
Steve says what he enjoys most is the appreciation he gets from customers, and gives an example of preparing a backyard for a 21st birthday party.
"It’s high time we started better appreciating our older workforce for the skills and experience they bring."
“Before I began it was a nightmarish tangle of weeds, though there was evidence that at one time someone had put some loving care into it,” he says.
“By the time I had finished the transformation was dramatic. The young lady... was ecstatic and really grateful... and it left me feeling very satisfied.”
Dr Alex Maritz of the Swinburne University of Technology released new research in May that claimed “seniorpreneurs” aged 50-plus are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship, and come with decades of experience, existing networks, greater financial flexibility and different motivations.
“Overall, anecdotal evidence points that older people are in a better position to start a business than younger individuals,” Dr Maritz wrote.
“Furthermore, senior entrepreneurs place significant value on non-pecuniary benefits of self-employment, such as lifestyle and health preferences.”
I believe it’s high time we started better appreciating our older workforce for the skills and experience they bring.
And if our economy is going to continue to prosper well into the future, we need to encourage more budding “seniorpreneurs” to chase their dreams, innovate and solve the big problems relevant to their demographic.
The grey army is mobilising, and they’re set to transform the labour force.
Tim Fung is CEO and co-founder of Airtasker and one of INTHEBLACK's Young Business Leaders in 2014.