AAG Hot Topic 2018

Working in ageing and working while ageing

This hot topic covers two interconnected aspects of work and ageing. The workforce plays a critical role in supporting older people to age well for as long as possible, and thousands more workers will be needed in coming years across a wide range of industries. This includes aged care workers but also those providing other services specifically for older people (such as social and financial services), those providing mainstream services used by older people, and unpaid carers and volunteers.

The future workforce is facing significant changes in key sectors (in particular the aged care, health and disability sectors). In addition, all sectors working in ageing need to consider their capacity to provide inclusive, responsive, accessible and appropriate services that meet the needs and preferences of older people. To address these challenges, we need a well-led, well-trained and well-prepared workforce that is adept at adjusting to meet the needs of older Australians.

The Senate Committee inquiry into the aged care workforce has started the conversation but we also need to broaden the discussion beyond aged care and examine issues such as the impact of government policies, the need for education and training, how to create a culturally competent and inclusive workforce, and the challenges in regional and remote communities.

AAG’s Hot Topic 2017 highlighted the economic opportunities older people present including their contribution as employees, volunteers and carers. We know that Australians are staying in the workforce longer but many older people are either working less than they would like, or are unemployed. The Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into employment discrimination found that the main reason for not working in older age is poor health, and that ageism reduces workforce participation. However, it noted that motivation and capacity to stay in the workforce are influenced by many factors (such as government policies, job design and access to supports).

To harness this potential, ‘coordinated and effective action is required to address employment discrimination and reduce the barriers to workforce participation’ (Willing to Work 2016). We need to continue to work to address these barriers to ensure that those who wish to stay in, or return to, the paid workforce are enabled and supported to do so. To do this we need to pay attention to a range of issues such as education and training, employment policy, workplace policies and practices, and broader issues of ageism and discrimination.

Professor Philip Taylor is the 2018 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow and will be presenting on it whilst travelling to at least three AAG Divisions (states and territories) during the year.