Treasurer Joe Hockey says Australian employers have to change their attitudes to older workers, while workers should get used to having many careers and many retirements.
Mr Hockey said the stereotype of people studying in their youth, working hard in a career and retiring at 65 no longer applied in Australia.
“Those days are over,” he said. ”What we need to do is change the dialogue around longevity.”
The Treasurer was speaking at the launch of an Age Management Toolkit, produced by over-50s lobby group National Seniors to encourage employers to retain and hire older workers.
The launch was held at the Bunnings hardware store in the northern Sydney suburb of Chatswood, an outlet the treasurer – whose electorate covers the area – referred to as his local toy store.
Bunnings is a significant employer of older workers, with a quarter of its workforce aged over 50. Mr Hockey called on other employers to follow its lead in drawing on Australia’s older workers.
“If you think about removing age discrimination you can be extremely profitable and you can be more embraced by the community than many other businesses,” he said. ”We have to change the attitudes of employers.”
Australia’s ageing workforce and shrinking tax base are key issues for the treasurer ahead of the imminent release of the Intergenerational Report – an examination of the nation’s demographic and financial pressures.
Mr Hockey has warned the report will shock Australians and wants it to force a conversation about how the nation can cover its costs and maintain its quality of life. National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said people who lost their job in their 50s spent longer out of work than younger workers.
Being out of work hurt older workers’ retirement savings, increased demands on the aged pension, affected their physical and mental health and represented a loss of experience to the national economy, he said.
“The legacy of extended time out and not returning to work is something people live with for the rest of their lives,” Mr O’Neill said.
Bunnings store operations director Michael Schneider said the hardware chain had a workforce that spans six generations. One worker from Bunnings’ Mittagong store, Ralph Hogg, is 83 years old and has worked all his career in hardware.
Employing older workers was not about “making up the numbers” or helping out, he said.
“Older workers brought experience, encouraged younger workers and inspired confidence in customers. As a business leader I see it as a strong commercial driver in a growing business,” he said.