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Older job seekers gutted by policy failure

By Malcolm King - posted Tuesday, 25 June 2013


The failure of the Government's $70 million mature age worker initiative had many fathers but paternity must go to a lack of implementation.

Experience+ was launched in 2010 with the aim of getting more mature age workers 50+ in to work while ensuring current older workers were assisted if they wanted to work on past the traditional but non binding retirement age of 65.

Even though the $10 million Jobs Bonus for older job seekers was launched last April, it has only attracted less than 120 successful candidates. It has taken the Government and DEEWR 12 months to get 120 mature age people a job for three months work. This failure has been typical of Government's response to Australia's changing demographic shape as the Boomers age and transition to retirement or on to the dole and sickness benefits.

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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.

Minister Kate Ellis and DEEWR must explain why they failed to design, implement and promote Experience+.

Over the last 18 months, the Gillard Government has scrapped three important mature age initiatives: On the Job Support, Experience Plus Training, and Job Transition Support. The monies saved from these programs were rolled into the Corporate Champions and the $25.8 million Experience+ Work Ready program, which hopes to provide job hunting skills and basic IT literacy training for people 50+. After 12 months of planning, Work Ready has not gone to market.

On the Job Support was an excellent program aimed at helping older 'tradies' and labourers 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', and you're over 55, the chances are you're carrying a work related injury. The idea was to ease them off hard labour and into less physical work. It is believed the programs were scrapped due to low enrolments. There is no help for these battlers now.

The defunct Experience+ Training program allowed provided training (at the Certificate III level or above) for mature age workers so that they could get skills to successfully mentor and supervise apprentices or trainees. The Government was going to pay employers almost $5000 per employee to hold on to their best workers and train them up. The program wasn't promoted and withered on the vine.

The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research's $20 million Investing in Experience (Skills Recognition & Training) program replaced DEEWR's More Help for Mature Age Workers in July last year. It aimed to help up to 5,000 mature age workers to gain nationally recognised qualifications. It is unclear how many people have completed this program.

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How serious is the Government about contingency planning for demographic change, as the post war generation begins to retire? Not very. The media favours 'happy' stories of older people getting jobs - which are good – but which border at times on condescension. So far there has been no discussion of what the nation is trying to achieve with its older job seeker and worker strategy.

One of the reasons why the Government is trying to defray pension and healthcare outlays from 2010-2050, is to avoid shackling young people to a life of tax slavery to support the welfare of their ageing parents and grandparents.

While the unemployment rate for 55+ is low at about 3.5 per cent compared to youth unemployment (ABS. 11.8 per cent), unemployed older job seekers 55+ on average can take more than 72 weeks to find work, compared to about 40 weeks in the 25-44 age range.

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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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