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Government's Experience+ program a fiasco - young to pay

By Malcolm King - posted Wednesday, 1 May 2013


There is cause for celebration as Australia's population hit 23 million last week, which is a testament to the resilience of our economy and democracy.

But put down your party hats and whistles. The Commonwealth Government has done little to ensure the large retiring Boomer generation doesn't force younger generations in to tax servitude to fund their aged pensions and healthcare.

Over the last 18 months the Government's $70 million mature age worker and job seeker initiatives have been cut, revamped or remain at the pilot stage. Called Experience+, these programs sought to help older job seekers get work and assist employers to plan for mass retirements over the next 20 years.

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An implicit assumption was that Experience+ would help older job seekers find work so they would not be a drag on the savings of younger generations.

The Minister of Workforce Participation, Kate Ellis, and the Australian Public Service, have much to answer for failing to properly design, implement and promote these crucial initiatives. The lack of action will have knock on effects for both the Boomers and rising generations.

According to the 2010 Intergenerational Report, the worst-case scenario is that by 2050, government spending will outstrip revenue by 2.75 per cent of GDP, with half of all government-spending going towards health care and the aged pension.

In my hometown of Adelaide in 2012, the proportion of all people aged 50-64 in employment was lower than in any of the other capital city. South Australia desperately needs health and aged care workers now. In NSW, unemployed people over 55 on average take 95 weeks to find work.That's a shocker.

In April, the Government's workers' compensation scheme rejected calls to remove aged based barrier for compensation payments for Commonwealth employees. So if you get injured at work and you're over 67, you won't get a cent. What message does this send to the public sector? It says 'sack old Joe or Helen as they're a liability'.

Even though the $10 million Jobs Bonus for older job seekers was launched last April, it has taken the Government 12 months to attract 84 candidates. The Government and DEEWR could do less but I don't see how.

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Over the last 12 months, the Government has scrapped three important mature age initiatives: On the Job Support, Experience Plus Training, and Job Transition Support. These programs helped both employers and workers - especially those in manual labour - learn new skills through training. None of these programs were promoted.

On the Job Support helped 'tradies' find new ways to work so they didn't have to bust their guts in their late 50s and 60s. If you work 'on the tools', the chances are you're carrying a work related injury. The idea was to ease them off hard labour and into less physical work. The programs were scrapped due to low enrolments. There is no help for these battlers now.

The $25.8 million Experience+ Work Ready program hopes to provide job-hunting skills and basic IT literacy training for people 50+. After nine months of planning, Work Ready is still not ready.

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An edited copy of this story appeared in The Advertiser recently.



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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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