ALLOWING retired workers back into the workforce in Ipswich and elsewhere is one option on the cards for an upcoming federal employment summit later this year.
Dr Jennifer Luke is a research fellow in Wellbeing and Employability at the University of South Qld’s
Springfield Campus. She says retired workers still can, and want to, contribute to the economy in
paid and unpaid roles.
“Many older Australians want to continue working or re-engage with work,” she said.
“They’ve retired and they want to re-engage in some form of work. The reasons for it – financial is one issue.
It’s a big issue with the cost of living,” she told the Local Ipswich News.
“But it’s also a lot of people wanting to continue working or re-engage because they feel that they want
to be able to give back to the community.”
Dr Luke said it was about a sense of purpose. “They want to be able to maintain a professional identity. Many people experience a sense of loss when they retire like someone who worked in an industry all their life and stepped away from it, which had been a big part of their life which they lost.”
She also said it could be about keeping busy, “keeping their body and mind active”. “When you’re talking about older Australians wanting to re-engage or stay within work, a lot of the times it is paid work but you’ve also got to include, in there, volunteer work as well because that is a part of it.
On whether digital skills would be a prerequisite for returning retirees, Dr Luke pointed out that there were
skills shortfalls across the board which could be filled by a skilled workforce.
“The (federal) government is looking at where there is a lot of skills gaps in industry and they are wanting to
encourage older workers to engage like the trades,” she said.
“In the construction industry (like electricians and plumbers), they need people who have the skills and
knowledge to pass on that knowledge.”
“It’s really looking at those who are continuing working. It’s not about forcing people to continue working; it’s
really looking at those who wish to continue working or re-engage. How can we provide support to them?”
She says the solution lies in career support. “Career development support is needed across all ages;
it doesn’t stop. It is about looking at how government can assist those people who wish to continue working and not impact on their finances.”
She said changes to legislation is required to allow for greater flexibility. “For someone on the pension
at the moment, they can only do a small number of hours without being penalised.
That’s a big issue. I’m hoping that will be included in the job summit.” On ageism, she agrees that it is a problem in the workforce.
“There is ageism out there. The thing is for anyone, no matter what age you are, career development support
is very much needed.
“It’s not just about how to finding a job, it’s also about building your confidence and who knowing you are
and what your professional identity is.“
She also pointed out that there is an Age Discrimination Commission that can be approached.
Dr Luke also said employers are driven by the need to find skilled and capable workers. “Ageism is definitely out there but it’s also (about) making sure you have that confidence in yourself to be able to sell yourself to
“That’s also looking at what opportunities are out there. The government wants to encourage people to
continue working. It’s about encouraging people but also working with the workforce and making sure they are providing an age-diverse inclusive environment.”
Dr Luke said the current skills shortage is creating opportunities. “Employers are desperately needing people in all sectors.
Employers really are needing people with skills; this is actually a great time for anyone who is an older Australian who wants to be able to continue working.”
She said the approach for getting back into work is knowing first exactly what you can offer an employer
then looking at where there is opportunity.
“Now is the time. We’ve got a skills gap and we’ve got people wanting to work. Its making sure that both the workforce and the workers understand the importance of career development.
That’s why it’s so important. Its building the confidence of any worker to go to any employer and say ‘I know you are desperately seeking people and this is what I can offer you’.
On lifting the pension age, Dr Luke wants a more flexible approach. “Pushing the retirement age back is about the individual.
Some people need to retire early; others have caring responsibilities and there are others who don’t want
to retire; they want to keep working. It’s about a policy that doesn’t look at people the same, not a blanket policy that fits all.”