The findings released by global recruitment firm Mercer debunk the notion that employers should only be focusing on how to attract and retain generation Y, and enforce the reality that workers aged 55-plus will be the productivity drivers for Australian businesses.
The research found that by 2012 the number of workers in the labour force aged 55-plus will have increased by 14%, while the number of workers aged 25–54 will have increased by 5%.
Furthermore, the number of women in the workforce aged 45-plus will increase by 12%, whilst the number of men in the same age group will increase by only 6%.
Mercer Asia-Pacific retirement leader Tim Jenkins said by looking four years out, the research highlights the urgency for employers to act immediately.
“In four short years there will be close to a quarter of a million workers aged 55-plus in the Australian labour force, and assumptions about what an employer should expect from an employee, and vice versa, have to change,” he said.
“This is not about changing a few human resources policies. There needs to be a shift in the mindset of how, and for how long, Australians work.
“Australian employers have to redefine what the average daily and weekly job looks like, how it’s remunerated, in order to hold on to older workers, maintain productivity and keep downward pressure on wages that, according to our research, are forecast to rise at an average annual rate of 4.2 percent between now and 2012.”
The research also found workforce participation rates will decrease in all states and territories across Australia between 2008 and 2012.
Jenkins believes the research also poses a number of questions to employers, such as: how many jobs really need to be full-time; how many part-time workers are needed to deliver current and future productivity requirements; and how do you fill entry-level jobs when the labour force is dominated by the 55-plus group?
“The stigma around part-time work not equating to a career or a promotion, or part-time workers not being as valued as full-time workers, has to change and employers are going to have to create more part-time roles as career roles,” Jenkins said.
“Workplace 2012 will be dominated by the race to keep skilled workers. If businesses remain complacent in changing their focus and approach to the workplace, they won’t have the necessary workforce to remain viable.”