Most of us roll our eyes and sigh when we read that the retirement age is set to increase to 70. We already feel like we are living to work.
Like so much else, it’s about the economy and the persistent bottom line. Netting a few billion dollars in taxes for the budget is always appealing, but ask anyone over 50 looking for work and they’ll tell you they’d love to work until they’re 70 – if only they could find a job.
When my mum, who is in her early 60s, started looking for a new job last year she found it tough. It took her months to find something that fitted her needs. She would tell me about the tens of emails and calls she would make each week to employers and her network of contacts.
She was becoming visibly frustrated. Here was someone who had worked for decades in her industry, had won awards and came with some of the best references I’d ever seen. But she struggled.
It took her longer than it should have, like it does many older workers.
In 2015, Susan Ryan, then age discrimination commissioner, found that more than one in every four workers over 50 had been discriminated against because of their age.
She was told that “it’s not worth training someone who’s 53”. Even if you take a conservative estimate and say that person would retire at 58 that is still five years away.
Why is business not giving workers with experience and interest a go?
When I work with business on issues like this I find confusion. They’re aspirational and seeking a crème de la crème of staff, but don’t know what they are missing.
The problem is that they have a very narrow view of what makes a quality applicant.
Managers get sidetracked by fancy titles, exciting companies and candidates who stroke their egos.
Too many hold out for this elusive applicant, shooting themselves in the foot by overlooking, and disrespecting, those with experience.
Add to this the frustration of a mix of ages in the workplace. Twenty-somethings like me roll our eyes when we have to explain new technology again. Meanwhile, our older colleagues think we aren’t learning from their mistakes.
A survey of over 10,000 people found that the whole workplace benefits from a spread of ages. Older workers help workplaces keep a steady pace during busy and quiet periods.
Still, myths persist. Older workers themselves fall for these misconceptions.
Older workers tend to downplay their energy and motivation. That’s to lower expectations, which makes sense. But managers hear that as resistance to change and training, which one study showed just isn’t true.
The government might want us to work longer, but there are some massive barriers to this happening.
Conrad Liveris is a corporate adviser on workplaces and risk. He holds a Certificate in Governance and Risk Management and a Master of Commerce.