ACT News

Older job seekers 'remain unemployed for longer'

Older workers who find themselves out of work are likely to remain unemployed much longer than younger Australians and superannuation balances among those in their pre-retirement years are unevenly distributed. 

Marcia Keegan, an associate with Curtin University and SGS Economics and Planning, said generous tax concessions for mature-age workers topping up their superannuation do not benefit people who find themselves out of work or underemployed in the latter half of their working lives.

Dr Keegan will give a talk about the option for sustaining workforce participation to retirement age and reducing superannuation gaps, at a forum at the Australian National University on Wednesday. 

"Things have been getting a lot better for mature-age workers, those aged between 45 and 64, over the last 20 years or so; they've got higher rates of employment, lower rates of disability, they've got lower rates of unemployment and also their superannuation balances are growing on average," she said.

However, Dr Keegan, said it still took much longer for older job seekers to find work compared to their younger counterparts. About a quarter of those aged 45 to 64 remained unemployed for more than a year;  this was the case for only 15 per cent of people aged under 44.

This raised concerns about the impact of long-term unemployment on their the superannuation balances, she said. 

Advertisement

Dr Keegan's presentation will look at some of the difficulties facing older workers and discuss policy options that could increase employment for mature-age workers and boost the superannuation balances of those heading into retirement.

She said the government's new Restart program should be "quite helpful" when it comes to encouraging the employment of older Australians. Under the program, employers will get subsidies of up to $10,000 for hiring mature-age job seekers.

"Older people have a greater risk of being long-term unemployed and they also run the risk of facing age discrimination in the workforce, so this will hopefully encourage some employers [to hire older workers]," she said.

Dr Keegan said changes that allowed older people to contribute extra to their superannuation could be quite helpful, but only to those who had employment. 

"One of the things that was floated was getting rid of the low income superannuation contribution," she said.

"Of all the ways the government can raise money from taxes, taking money from the retirement accounts of low income workers is probably not the first place you should be looking." 

Dr Keegan said moves to increase the pension age was a natural progression given life expectancies were increasing, "but that only helps if you're able to work and able to find work".

The Living to get the age pension and enjoy life in retirement: prospects and policy options forum will hear from several speakers discussing factors affecting the health and well-being of older Australians. It will also examine policy options that could address inequalities in retirement stemming from inequalities in earlier in life, particularly those associated with workforce participation and disability. 

Richard Cumpston, director of Australian Projections, will also speak at the forum. He will discuss the topic of life expectancies, including the differences in people's chances of dying,  such as how married people are much less likely to die than unmarried people. 

Dr Cumpston also said educated people tended to have lower disease risks, and people in high-grade occupations, such as professionals or managers, tended to have better life expectancies.