Incentives for pensioners not enough.

It appears the government is making concrete moves to address the impacts that Australia’s ageing population will have on our economy.

Private Treasury briefing notes which outline Labor’s plans and costed funding of an incentive-based program that rewards pensioners for re-entering or continuing working past retirement were leaked to Fairfax this week.

So how would this rewards scheme work? As of July 1, pensioners will be able to earn up to $10,400 in investments and wages, without losing any pension entitlements. This is an increase of $ 7,800 from the previous $2,600.

But is it as simple as deciding to go back to work or even to stay with your current job? Fact is, many older people in employment find themselves on the receiving end of mean jokes and ‘hints’ as they approach retirement age. Their work is no longer appreciated as it once was while employers continue to look for ‘fresh blood’ when hiring. As a result, many older people decide it’s not worth the pain of going to work and they might as well retire.

For older people looking for work, they are finding it almost impossible to find employment. While most employers deny discriminating applicants based on age, many of them don’t even realise they’re doing it. Over qualified and over skilled are common excuses for not hiring older people. But the fact remains, the working age population will grow by just 125,000 for the entire decade from 2020 to 2029. That’s less that a 10th of the current pace.  So if we don’t embrace the capacity, wisdom and experience of older people what will happen to our economy?

The federal government’s 2010 Intergenerational Report, predicts that increasing the participation of mature age workers by just 5% in the next 40 years would increase Australia’s real GDP per capita by 2.4%, while also easing the pressure on the welfare system. And while there are those out there who are thinking that the government is making us work longer, it is worth remembering that they are giving pensioners the option to stay in employment without missing out on their entitlements which they would have received whether they kept working or fully retired.

Many people of retirement age find this a very daunting time of their life and many don’t feel old enough to stop working. What may seem like a life of pleasure can soon become lonely and dull. The government’s rewards scheme is a good initiative for the wisdom and experience of older people to be channelled through organisations. But what will be done to give employers the incentive to take on and/or retain older employees? This is the area that the government need to address next.

Ellis Jones specialises in developing creative and effective marketing and communications campaigns for the health and ageing sector and companies seeking advice on how to engage an older workforce.