SYDNEY — Over the course of a generation, the portion of Australia’s workforce aged 55 and over has more than doubled to 19 percent, new research shows.

It’s a trend attributed to women re-entering careers mid-life and delaying retirement.

By 2050, it’s expected the same age group will make up about 40 percent of the adult population.

The findings are part of an Australian Research Council brief issued ahead of the 2021 Intergenerational Report on policy sustainability due to be released this week by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Lead author Rafal Chomik from the University of New South Wales Business School says the demographic change is delivering a large talent pool of older people who will be healthier and more educated than ever.

Over the course of a generation, the portion of Australia’s workforce aged 55 and over has more than doubled to 19 percent, new research shows. (Bianca De March/AAP Image)

They will also form a “critical part of the workforce and economy”.

“More mature workers could increase economic prosperity,” Chomik said.

“Given the right opportunities, older workers could offset the adverse economic impacts of population aging.”

However, if those 55 and older are to thrive in the labor market, Chomik said more needs to be done to “dismantle remaining barriers related to health, care, training, discrimination, and work conditions”.

Employers also need to have the right strategies to recruit, deploy and retain older workers, helping them sustain the workforce as well as providing employment to the older generations.

The good news is that research is pointing the way forward.

The council’s ‘Tapping into Australia’s Aging Workforce paper‘ reveals care demands are one of the commonly cited examples of barriers to work, especially for women.

“Over 40 percent of women aged 50 and over who are working part-time and about a third of those working full-time, are involved in some sort of caregiving,” according to senior contributor Marian Baird.

“If organizations want to take advantage of demographic change, then they need policies and cultures in which employees can access the flexibility they require.”

One size does not fit all.

The Australian Research Council research sets out what it calls a 3i framework — Include, Individualize and Integrate – developed by Curtin University‘s researchers Sharon Parker and Daniela Andrei.

“For organizations, managing mature workers well brings productivity benefits,” Parker said.

“For individuals, high-quality work fosters successful aging and the fulfillment of caring responsibilities. It’s a win-win.”

Even so, she says many organizations remain reluctant to recruit mature workers and, when they do, there are few policies and practices in place to support them.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari)

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