Is this the only way for older Australians to work again?

For those of us not lucky enough to be comfortably retired, it can be incredibly difficult to find new work.

For those of us not lucky enough to be comfortably retired, it can be incredibly difficult to find new work. But now thousands of older Australians have found a way – and it’s not what you might expect.

According to, nearly 5,000 Australians over 50 have voluntarily signed up for “work for the dole” programs, despite not being required to do so.

In fact, there are more over-50s working for the dole than there are under 22.

It’s a stunning display of our generation’s work ethic, but it also reflects a greater problem: the fact that many of us are desperate to work again, yet are forced to take this pathway.

Emerald Compton, Chairman of the Longevity Forum, said this showed just how keen many of our generation are to reenter the workforce – whatever it takes.

“There are many people around 50 who get retrenched from a job and find it extremely difficult to get another one, and they just don’t want to sit around and do nothing,” he said.

“A lot of them have a guilt complex about accepting welfare and they want to get out and work, they want to contribute and have a meaningful life”.

Mr Compton said the government should see this as encouragement to extend such work programs to all Australian seniors, regardless of existing pensions and allowances, so they can develop new skills.

Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, has taken this news as a sign that work for the dole programs are working well.

“The strong participation of Australians aged over 50 in the Work for the Dole initiative is a reflection of both the success of the programme as well as the strong community spirit that exists across our country,” she said.

Michael O’Neil, President of National Seniors, said that those who find themselves unemployed past the age of 50 will find themselves out of the workforce for an average of 72 weeks – making them far likelier to sign up for a program that can help them stay active.

“I think there is certainly a cohort that come from a work ethic background and for them there is a really significant element of self-worth in work,” he said.

Would you sign up for a work for the dole program? How do you feel about this being the best option for so many older Australians? Should the government be doing more to help?

  1. The fact that lots of older workers are working for the dole is not a sign that the work for the dole program is working, it is a sign that the employment market is in dire straits.

    • There are a lot more than 5.8% of the workforce out of work. So many people are not eligible to be counted. For example, if you get an hours paid work In a fortnight, you are not ‘unemployed’.

      • Frank  

        I believe the increasing casualisation of the workforce also tends to hide the unemployment rate – if you get to work 4 hours a week – then you are not ‘unemployed’ – you’re just on call – even if you are on a zero-hours contract – and didn’t ‘get’ any hours last week !

        Employers love it – and governments don’t mind – ‘look ! our unemployment rate is low’ – yeah – BS – lies, damn lies and statistics.

    • Spot on Rob, there is no work out there. I know over 60’s who are on the dole but volunteer 15 hours per week who desperately want a job.

    • It is is sign this cruel liberal gov does not want to give us pensions. Take money from hard working Aussies.
      Gov is cutting money from pensioners in all front line workers & doing it while Australia is asleep during the Christmas break in their usual underhanded way.

    • Rob is right, even if you are only working for an hour a week , you are marked as employed, much of the small decrease in the unemployment figures can be down to seasonal work and the Christmas trade. Many of those jobs will be lost after the Christmas period is over

    • 5.8% my arse! What about all those doing volunteer work, and it’s not just the oldies. I have a 23 year old friend who is doing conservation work, she’s no longer considered to be on the dole because the conservationists have taken over her payments, which are exactly the same as the dole

    • I heard recently that the ‘real’ unemployment figure is 25%, and I believe it. The govt can fudge the figures to say anything they want. Lies, damn lies and statistics!

  2. Glenda Faber  

    What a crock! I know people who are over 50 and working for the dole. It isn’t voluntary, they do this because there isn’t any paid work out there. If they don’t do this they have to apply for so many jobs a week (which aren’t there). The last choice is compulsory work for the dole and they still have to report to their provider once a fortnight, they have time sheets they have to fill in and get signed. I know of one lady whose husband lost his job and she is doing work for the dole. Recently he got a block of work ( a couple of months work) and earning money so Centrelink aren’t paying her anything BUT she still has to work for the dole. If she doesn’t do this she will have to reapply for Newstart when the husband is out of work. Why do they want older people doing more work for the dole, get the younger people on the program. I believe the younger people on have to do 6 months work for the dole. The over 50s have to do it every week of the year with no holidays! Tell me how that is fair when these people have worked all their lives.

  3. I work for nothing looking after grandkids. …which can be more exhausting than working in an office….Unfortunately the pay sucks!!! We also volunteer, something l did for 40 years. …once again the pay sucks 🙂

  4. Work for the dole is a lot of pointless nonsense. What should be happening is that people should be re-training into fields where there is more work.

  5. If you want payments you have to do 15hrs per week voulamtary or look for non existant jobs the stress people go through when treated like a non person after working hard for many years makes many depressed or suecidal thats whats happening to many seniors

  6. I agree with Elsie , my husband retired 3 years ago, couldn’t possibly have kept working, because of his health problems, so I had to go on new start allowance and look for work,I have health issues also but they won’t give me a pension until I turn 65, in 12 months time. I have found a few hours a fortnight but then I still have to look for six jobs a month, I live in a small country town, so jobs are hard to come by. My health is suffering because of the stress ect and it does cause depression .

    • I think you should be talking to Centrelink, at 64 years of age you should only have to be volunteering for 15 hours per week and in a remote area maybe not even that.

    • I have and they said I can do some volunteer but still need to look for work even though I have some casual hours. I would do volunteer if I lived in town but it costs money for fuel every time I go to town.

    • Tried to get on that but apparently my medical problems arn,t bad enough , even though some days I can barely walk and on the worst days I can’t get out of bed for 3 days at least until my back stops going into spasms. I suppose I could try again as it was 2 years ago.

  7. That fact thst so many people over the sge of 50 are working for the dole also shows that there is far too much age discrimination when these people are seeking work in fieldd where they already have established years of experience and skills. Thae false reasons given when they once again fail in their efforts to obtain paid employment is disgraceful. I am very blessed to be still employed by the same organization after 27 years at the age of 67. I always feel the compelled to contribute extra effot at work. It is foolish to take anything for granted. I have had to be very flexible over the years.

  8. I would definitely sign up to work for the dole. Anything is better than sitting around the house feeling sorry for yourself. Also it could very well lead to a job.

  9. The Gov terminated me because I put in a complaint about a bully, they didn’t want to know so after 18 yrs of hard work lost my job, as well age discrimination. Was too old to get other employment plus the trauma. There is nothing for older workers that have a mountain of experience. The fact that people are registered to work for the dole is because they have to, they don’t have a choice. It’s not that the gov is doing a good job if they don’t enrol no payment. There should be more part time jobs available but for a gov to sprout they are doing well for older workers is not the truth. They haven’t done anything to help those out of work

    • Perhaps you should go to the State Administrative Tribunal to fight your unfair dismissal claim. I have worked in government departments and they are not, as people might think, great to work for at all.

    • Jenny stay strong, try to learn new skills if you can and I hope another door opens for you where your work environment is happy. I for one employ senior women (and others) In honesty I find senior people more reliable but we also employ other ages too. I find we need to empower people not push them down…a fair pay for a fair days work is all it takes, oh and a happy environment !

    • I did go through unfair dismissal but they other side insisted I go back under the bully even though I certificates stating that I couldn’t and that I pay $1000 for a medical assessment through their preferred medical Drs. I took a very small payment as the ongoing case was too much. This what they do to avoid redundancy. Still paying a mortgage but have been picking up gardening jobs here and there. A bully gets away with it but there is so much of it in the gov, for a time whilst going through it all had a placement at another location and majority of people were placed there due to bullying once they complained. However new year around the corner and will endeavour to get past this hard time because of my strength to survive

    • Good luck Jenny Crowley for the future. It is not easy, I know that. Have you ever thought about registering with an employment agency who supplies government departments with personnel. I did that for a while and actually enjoyed it. I must say I am unsure what “the bully” is. I worked for the Tribunal.

    • I am so sorry to read what happened to you. I too have been bullied and yes the only way is to leave. At 60 I again am finding it difficult to find work even with all my experience but I have to work. I certainly wouldn’t do work for the dole. Thats an insult.

  10. I don’t think that working for the dole is such a bad idea I have a friend in Sweden at the age of 60 the government retrained him for a more suitable job getting something for nothing is not always a good thing

  11. Where have I been? I didn’t realise work for the dole had come in again. I know if you are over 50 (I think) and on the dole you can volunteer for 15 hours a week and not have the job quotas to get the dole, but didn’t realise work for the dole has started again.

  12. I think this is a great idea, they need to feel productive and know their worth. Older people have had time to work although there are older people not at retirement age that still collect the dole sometimes because they have been made redundant and again they need to feel useful and maybe learn new skills. If this program is run properly then it could be an opportunity for people to really get a foothold on a bright, self sufficient future. I am all for it ! Older Australians sometime work too long (like me) we do it because it’s the only thing we know but I am looking forward to retirement where I can join a volunteer group and help others.

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