Calls for a raise to Newstart payments have been raging for weeks, with one woman making headlines just days ago on the ABC’s Q&A program when she revealed she was struggling to get by after being forced to rely on welfare payments, admitting: “I could not find a job no matter how hard I tried.”
And now a new report has found while more Aussies are remaining in the workforce past retirement age – more are also battling unemployment.
According to employment and workplace expert Conrad Liveris, there are more Aussies than ever over the age of 65 holding down full and part-time jobs – up 11 per cent from last year. However, he also found in the special report – based on ABS data – that the same year saw a 27.8 per cent jump in the number of people in the same age group being left unemployed and struggling to find work.
Meanwhile, the same age group again saw the largest increase in unemployed people searching specifically for full-time jobs, increasing by 44.12 per cent since 2014 and 38.72 per cent since 2018.
In contrast, he found those aged 35-44 saw the lowest growth in full-time employment, at just 2 per cent since 2018. However, full-time employment has risen by 8.62 per cent since 2014 and 3 per cent since 2018 across the entire jobs market.
“The massive increases in older people looking for jobs and then working suggests one of two things are happening: they underfunded their retirements, or they have realised they are living longer,” Liveris said.
It comes after it was revealed a large number of Aussies, not yet eligible for the Age Pension, have found themselves stuck on Newstart after repeatedly failing to find employment.
One reason for this struggle is age discrimination and Australia’s oldest charity The Benevolent Society are calling on employers across Australia to help tackle the problem of ageism in the workplace.
Employers could tackle the issue by taking a look at their recruitment habits, according to Marlene Krasovitsky, Campaign Director at The Benevolent Society, who previously told Starts at 60 there is evidence to prove that some employers tend to avoid hiring from within certain demographics.
“The sorts of things that we are encouraging employers to do is think about what their workforce looks like and whether or not there is an overrepresentation,” she said. “And whether they’re mainly recruiting particular ages. There is evidence out there to suggest that some companies are doing just that.
“We also want them to look at the diversity of their workforce. Ask questions about whether they’re actually maximising and optimising the benefits of having a diverse workforce.”
Marlene suggested another way that employers can make their workplaces more accommodating for older workers is to consider flexible working options, which can include elements such as reduced working hours as people prepare to transition to retirement or job sharing schemes.
She added: “We’re asking employers to look at their flexible work arrangements and whether they are available across the board, or just for perhaps younger people. And to look at the benefits that could be brought to the business by expanding those flexible arrangements or making workplace adjustments for older workers.”
Last year, shocking figures collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that older Aussies are actually spending longer on the dole than unemployed people in their 20s, debunking the myth that Newstart is a young person’s payment.
The findings, which were analysed by The Benevolent Society, revealed that there were 174,532 Aussies aged 55 to 64 signed on to Newstart, compared to 156,664 between the ages of 25 and 34.
While there were more older Aussies simply in receipt of the unemployment benefit, the data also showed that unemployed Australians, aged 60-64, remain on the unemployment benefit for an average of 187 weeks before signing off, compared to 104 weeks for those aged 25-29.
And, whereas ‘signing off’ for younger generations means the recipient has landed a job, in many cases with older Aussies the ceasing of payments can often be explained by a transition to the Age Pension, after reaching the age of 65.
Just days ago, one woman made headlines as she opened up about her own isolating experience with Australia’s welfare system on the ABC’s Q&A program, revealing it has been the “worst time of her life”.
Making an emotional speech during the episode, Ricci Bartels said she was forced onto Newstart at the age of 62 after being made redundant.
“I have paid taxes for 46 years… I’ve worked 20 years in the private sector and 26 years in the public sector for a not-for-profit community service,” she explained.
“I was forced on to Newstart at the age of 62 through change of management and subsequent retrenchment.”
However, the woman went on to say she has been unable to find a job since starting on the welfare system, adding: “I’ve experienced Newstart for three years, JobActive left me to my own devices. I could not find a job no matter how hard I tried.”
The current rate of Newstart sits at $277.85 per week, which works out at just under $40 per day. And, unlike other countries, the allowance is paid at a set rate, regardless of individual circumstances or what people may have been earning prior to finding themselves out of work.
In response, Liberal MP Jason Falinski said the government have done a number of things to try and make the system, which is a $172billion welfare system per-annum, “as bespoke as possible in response to the needs of individuals as much as possible”.
“It may be in your particular case we haven’t been as accessible as we need to be but we keep trying,” he added.
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