Jobs News Good For Older Workers, Bad For The Young

18 May 2013

Immigration News

More than one in four people aged between 65 and 69 are now employed, most of them full-time, as older workers have absorbed half of Australia's net growth in jobs since the global financial crisis.

But Bureau of Statistics figures also show less than half of those aged 15-19 now have a job. Younger workers have shed 93,000 jobs in the past five years, while school retention rates have soared.

The bureau's data shows Australia has become a different labour market after the global financial crisis. It has more workers aged more than 55 than under 25. The number of those between 25-34 has bulged with the inflow of young foreign workers.

And we now have more than a million workers aged 60 and over - almost 300,000 or 40 per cent more than five years ago.

The most startling growth has been in men and women working on into their late 60s. In five years, their numbers have shot up from 172,000 to 278,000.

One in every 40 workers in Australia is now in their late 60s. One in 100 is 70 or above.

The reasons are well known. Older Australians today enjoy better health than any earlier generation. They are less likely to be worn out by physical work, and their jobs no longer require it.

They can look forward to a much longer lifespan - life expectancy of 60-year-olds is increasing at the rate of nine years every half-century - but most lack the retirement savings to last that distance.

The bureau figures show workforce participation has risen for women, especially older women - and fallen for men, especially younger men.

Thirty years ago, most women aged 45-54 spent their days at home, outside the workforce. Today they have replaced 20- to 24-year-olds as the peak age for female participation: 77 per cent of them are now in work or looking for work. Back in 1983, only 11 per cent of women aged 60-64 were in the workforce. By 2008, that had jumped to 38 per cent, and five years later, it has soared to 46 per cent. What used to be unusual is becoming the new norm.

Comparing the first four months of this year with the same period in 2008, the bureau found the number of women over 60 in work has grown by half, from 280,000 to 423,000. A quarter of all job growth has gone to women aged 55 and over.

The flipside is that jobs for younger men have shrunk rapidly: 57,000 fewer teenage males now have a full-time job, down 31 per cent. The main reason is that more are staying at school, but 19,000 more teenage males now have no job and no full-time education.

The upside is that while the teenage population has barely grown, 75,500 more of them now spend their late teens full-time at school or university. The percentage of 15-19-year-olds in full-time education has soared from 66.9 per cent to 71.6 per cent.

There is a similar trend among people aged 20-24; most of the growth is in those outside the workforce, presumably studying. But unemployment grew sharply in both age groups: from 13.5 per cent to 17.4 per cent among teenagers, and from 6.4 per cent to 10 per cent for those in their early 20s.

The changes have been less dramatic among those of prime working age. Employment rates have risen for women aged 35 and over, but fallen among men in every age group below 55.



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