By Simon Jedwab
In recent times, Jewish Care’s Employment and Education Centre (EEC) has seen an influx of mature-age job seekers requesting support in finding employment. 34%, or 130, of the job seekers the EEC currently supports are aged over 50 years old.
Throughout the next decade, the proportion of the population engaged in employment compared to that supported by the welfare system is set to reduce remarkably. Economically, job seekers aged 50 years and over represent a particularly concerning demographic. Due to economic and demographic trends, it is becoming increasingly important that older Australians remain in the workforce for as long as they are willing and able, as people aged over 50 are increasingly without the financial security to retire. Due to this, people are often forced to retire later in life. In 2014, 71% of people interviewed in a study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics intended to retire at 65, up from 48% ten years before, whilst 23% intended to retire at or above age 70, compared to only eight percent in 2004.
Mature-age job seekers often face many personal barriers to gaining employment, including a lack of confidence in competing against younger candidates, difficulty deciding on new careers, and outdated job seeking and technical skills. Many mature-age job seekers would benefit greatly from retraining and up-skilling to keep up with industry demands, although these needs are often ignored by government employment support providers. Despite government incentives and other encouragement, we know that workplaces are often reluctant to employ mature-age applicants. A 2015 study by the Australian Equal Rights Commission found that 27% of people over the age of 50 reported having recently experienced employment-related age discrimination, and amongst those, 1 in 3 gave up looking for work.
For many mature-age job seekers, personal barriers to finding work are often compounded by age-related bias and stereotyping. Ageism is a widespread and major impediment to finding employment, even when mature-age applicants have significant experience and are in good health. Many employers wrongly believe that mature-age job seekers are not worth recruiting because they are not technologically adept, on the road to retirement, more difficult to deal with, and unwilling to take instructions from a younger person. Community concern often reinforces the favouring of younger employees, with fear that workforce participation by older workers is a threat to the employment opportunities of younger generations or may depress wage growth.
These negative attitudes are often mislaid. Mature-age employees offer a vast array of transferable skills, knowledge, and experience to the companies for which they work.
High degrees of loyalty and enthusiasm, combined with low rates of absenteeism, offer significant value to employers. Additionally, mature employees are often willing to contribute to organisational growth and development by mentoring younger staff and helping other employees.
Jewish Care’s Employment and Education Centre understands both the irreplaceable value mature-age job seekers offer organisations, and the personal satisfaction that comes from being valued and engaged in the workforce. We offer tailored programs to improve employment outcomes for mature-age members of the Jewish community. These programs focus on:
- informing and educating the community about discrimination and stereotyping of mature-age job seekers,
- providing ongoing and regular professional support, both during job-seeking and post-placement, that is regularly unavailable with Job Active providers,
- providing access to financial incentives for employers, including federal government subsidies,
- providing career counselling around employment pathways,
- emphasising the importance of networking in gaining employment,
- developing up-to-date job seeking skills, and updating resumes, writing cover letters, and improving confidence in interviewing skills,
- assisting mature-age job seekers in accessing technical skill-development courses through Learn Local providers or TAFEs, and offering courses in basic computer skills and other areas as a Learn Local provider, and
- providing support that is sensitive to the culturally and linguistically diverse needs of mature-age Jewish jobseekers, a factor reportedly deemed important by 90.7% of members of the Jewish community. Specifically, we endeavour to ensure that job seekers with cultural and religious requirements or languages other than English (Yiddish, Russian or Hebrew) will not be disadvantaged.
There is little doubt that providing employment for mature-age job seekers would reduce reliance on the welfare system and wider community services. For older job seekers, gaining employment increases financial independence and reduces reliance on government subsidies and handouts, which decreases pressure on government finances. Employment also increases self-determination and physical health, which may reduce the need for health service intervention, and eases the detrimental effect unemployment and financial strain can have on family relationships.
Mature-age job seekers can be a great resource to any business if employers can get beyond bias and stereotyping and be more flexible in their recruiting approaches.
For more information about job seeking programs offered be Jewish Care’s Employment and Education Centre, phone 8517 5999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon Jedwab is the Manager of the Jewish Care Employment and Education Centre. He is also mature-age.