Wasting Experience


Wasting Experience

In my first article for Smallville, I focussed on why mature age business owners are so awesome. As a sister article, I’d like to cover off on some of the reasons why corporate Australia, including the recruitment agencies, are so down on mature age Aussies.

This will help set the scene for other articles where we again move the focus to the benefits of maturity, wisdom and experience in our Small Business community and in the economy as a whole.

I find it incredibly hard to believe, but the mature age demographic is one of the fastest growing groups of unemployed in the Australian economy.

Over 25% of the hundred thousand or so people aged 45-64 who are willing to work and looking for a job have experienced age discrimination. As a result, more than a third of these people give up looking for work. They buy into the belief that they are washed up, over the hill and ready to be put out to pasture.

But why is this happening? Well I’ve researched this phenomenon carefully and found seven core reasons:

1. Youthful and vibrant – these words or similar ones appeared in some 50% of all job ads being placed in online media in 2015. Employers are communicating what type of workplace they want and displaying fairly blatant age discrimination.

2. Age of recruiters – the average age of recruitment consultants, is in the late 20’s to mid 30’s and they don’t seem to have empathy or affinity for people who are just like mum and dad. They don’t know how to communicate with mature age job seekers, and because of the above pressure from their clients, they don’t have positions available anyway.

3. Employment costs – corporate Australia is willing to take the hit on redundancy because older workers generally cost more than younger ones in raw employment costs. Of course, this doesn’t take into account productivity of the individual, which has been found to be 30% higher in mature age workers compared to younger employees.

4. Lack of technical/computer skills – this is patently wrong and a gross generalisation. Most white-collar mature workers in the 45-64 year age group have literally grown up with computers all their working life. Personally, I’m 52, and I’ve had a computer since the first day in my first corporate job. I can use every windows and design program I require for 99% of my work. For the highly technical coding work required in app development and website work, I outsource it. Sure some blue-collar workers on production lines would not have experienced much computer work, but this blanket generalisation does not apply to a lot of the mature age individuals out there looking for work.

5. Short termism – there is no doubt corporates are falling into the trap of short termism in removing more mature workers. We have heard time and time again; the corporate managers say that after making mature workers redundant they have difficulties getting productivity from the younger workforce because with no ‘corporate’ memory old mistakes get made again, slowing up development of ideas, innovation and productivity.

6. Flexibility – it is quite interesting to note that mature workers are seen as less flexible in their ideas and behaviour compared to younger workers. This is again a gross generalisation. Sure everyone knows a “Grumpy Bob” who sits in his office wanting to keep doing things his way. But equally, if his systems work well and are productive why change them. In any event, resistance to change is a characteristic that is more about personality than age; and it is not a proven fact; so should be discounted if it based purely on the age of the individual.

7. Narrow view – this last point is probably the most significant. A narrow view on who is employable based on age ignores a range of other factors in the economy and workforce. The benefit of experience and wisdom, the higher productivity of older workers, the massive social cost of people being forced into retirement at a time when the economy can’t afford it, and the concomitant reduction in overall corporate and economic productivity is leaving an economic and taxation gap that we will have enormous difficulties filling if it continues.

The case for equal opportunity for mature age workers; and the creation of strategies both in business ownership and employment to help us avoid the economic crunch is growing.

Remember this fact: when we talk about mature age, we mean people aged 45-64, who at the lower end of this range have perhaps 20-25 years of productive working life ahead of them. Think 20 years of income, 20 years of consumption, 20 years of paying tax.

Will we act now, or wait until disaster strikes? We simply can’t afford the latter.

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