Business Takes Lead on Ageing Workers

The Business Council of Australia today released guidelines aimed at encouraging big business to keep more older Australians in the workforce.

The guidelines were a major business initiative aimed at addressing the significant issue of Australia’s ageing population and its impact on Australia’s workforce and economy, BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey, said.

The BCA’s Age Can Work: A Business Guide for Supporting Older Workers will be circulated to Australia’s top 100 companies which collectively employ one out of every 10 Australians.

They set out a range of practical and immediate ways that business can begin to address the barriers, pressures and prejudices related to age that can occur in the workplace and limit the number of older Australians staying in the workforce.

Ms Lahey said Australia’s ageing population would result in a shrinking workforce which would cost taxpayers and the economy dearly if not addressed now.

“An ageing population will have significant implications for economic growth, health and social spending, and taxation,” she said.

“At the moment, there are six taxpayers to support each retiree. With more and more baby boomers moving into retirement, there will be only half that number in 20 years.

“That’s clearly unsustainable, and will mean a massive barrier to economic growth, tax hikes and a decline in government services if not addressed.”

Ms Lahey said with an ageing population, all businesses need to recognise that both the labour pool was shrinking and that their customer base is ageing.

As a result, business needs to attract and retain a greater percentage of older Australians in their workforce both to maintain a skilled and experienced work force and closely match customers with customer service.

The guide was developed in response to an ACTU–BCA joint report – Age Can Work: The Case for Older Australians Staying in the Work Force – highlighting the business case for increasing the workforce participation rates among older workers and the factors restricting ongoing participation.

Ms Lahey said: “The guide provides a pool of ideas and initiatives from BCA Members which represent most of Australia’s largest employers, on ways to tackle and break down cultural and attitudinal barriers to older workers staying in or returning to the workforce.

“This guide is not prescriptive. The ageing of our population affects all types and sizes of business and all workers and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

“By posing a range of issues and questions for business and workers, we hope the guide will stimulate interest, discussion and new approaches to the challenges of supporting workforce participation among older workers.

“The next step is to communicate business experiences as they address these challenges and zero in on examples of best practice.

“We are looking to our membership to lead the way – as some already are.”

Ms Lahey said in light of Australia’s ageing population, business also needed to encourage greater workforce participation by Australians of all ages, including young people and working parents as well as older Australians.

Age Can Work: A Business Guide for Supporting Older Workers