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Age and Diversity

04 September 2014

There are some startling facts on superannuation and retirement coming out in the media - many of which are like our Westpac and super report which indicates that many women will have to work 25 years longer than their male counterparts to exit the workforce with the same level of superannuation.

Ruby member Kaye Amies (below) has some thoughts on employment for baby boomers.

 Kaye Amies

"Looks like the government will make the retirement age 70. I was going to work until then anyway.

"Lots of my friends are also planning on working until they are 70. Some of us will do this out of necessity, having not paid into, or had the opportunity to contribute to a super fund all our working lives. Some of us will stay working because we genuinely want to fill our days with the excitement of an enriching job. We may have been women who, for various reasons, have spent a lot of our lives as solo parents, and have worked to support our families.

"The children have moved on now, and we want to enjoy our lives.

"We now have the opportunity to travel, to expand our horizons, and many of us want to ensure we won’t be living out of a supermarket trolley and sleeping under a cardboard box. We are well, fit and energetic. We have experience. We are computer savvy, and we've moved past child care.

Do employers see women in business that way?

"To be honest I would not want a potential employer to see all of my experience because then they would guess that if I have 34 years in one industry, I have to be over 50, therefore practically senile, and if I am over 60, forget it.

"My feeling is that as we age we become more and more invisible, and if employers don’t acknowledge you are there you will go away and they won’t have to deal with you.

"Older women make up a large part of the work force. We are the ‘baby boomers’ and we are prepared to work. We now need employers to see us as an asset to their business and not a liability.

"We don’t wear six-inch heels (an advantage when it comes to Work Health and Safety), and we don’t spend all our time organizing our social calendar on a Friday afternoon, or have to rush away at night to collect our little ones from day care. Don’t think I am knocking anyone who does all three of these things, we have all been there, and that’s why we have bunions!

"But flat comfortable shoes don’t mean we have lost our ability to think, calculate, plan, or be entrepreneurial. We can be all of these things, and we just need employers to acknowledge we are there, available and want to work."

Facts and Figures around ageing

On average, people are living 20 years longer than they did 80 years ago, but the average retirement age is staying pretty much the same. At the same time, fertility has been on the decline over the last 40 years, so there are less young people entering the workforce.

There is a critical mass of people potentially retiring, with over 4.1 million baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) expected to retire this decade (Source: Sageco 2013).

The Australian economy experiences a loss of $10.8 billion per year for not utilising the skills and experience of older Australians (AHRC Research 2012). 

The risks of doing nothing about retaining these skills and the people who hold them are too high. Not only does business risk losing key knowledge and skills, but it will become increasingly harder to find experienced people to fill roles.

Westpac staying sustainable

Westpac was ranked number 1 in the 'Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World' in 2013. Achieving that ranking has been about measuring what as a corporation Westpac is able to do to ensure its sustainability and the sustainability of its workforce, as well as designing and implementing programs that create sustainability.

Westpac Group has set a Sustainability objective to increase the average retirement age of its employees to 62 by 2017. As at 1 October 2013, the average retirement age was 60.6 years. A number of employee programs are available around planning future and career as well as dealing with unconscious bias around age, gender, etc.

The only Australian company to win in the 2014 AARP Best Employers International Awards for exemplary practices in the employment of older workers, Westpac, AARP noted, has demonstrated world leadership in creating and fostering a workplace that supports the ageing workforce and encourages workers to remain actively employed.

AARP is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit association based in the US dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all as we age. It is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States and, with more than 37 million members, is one of the largest membership organisations in that country.

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1 comments

  • Denise Hall

    Denise Hall 4 years ago

    What some older women are starting to do instead, based on much of what is noted in this fine article, is become "seniorpreneurs", or in other words, business owners in their own right. Plenty of great businesses around to buy and some to even start, and enabling with much more control and earning capacity. If this raises questions you would like answered, please contact me on dhall@businessbrokers.com.au