19 February 2021


SUBJECT: The silent crisis facing older workers.

MICHAEL BAILEY, HOST: The silent crisis facing older workers, it’s just ridiculous. Twenty percent of older workers are jobless. That's one in every five workers. And it's discrimination at its worst. Because I mentioned this earlier on this morning, and I'm pleased to announce that we’ve got Stephen Jones because here's the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Super Minister. He's online, good morning to you Stephen. How are you mate? 

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Really good to be with you mate, really good.

BAILEY: Yeah look, the silent crisis facing older workers. And it's pretty sad that when job networks aren't working for the older people, are they? Because you know why? They're full of young kids and they're looking for young kids. They just give the over 50s the flick. Why is that? 

JONES: It really does for them like the system’s stacked against older workers. It seems like once they hit their mid 50s, early 60s, they’re seen to be redundant. They’re the first out the door when there's a downturn. It takes them twice as long to get another job, if I can find another job at all. And I think we've got to break this cycle. The first step is putting a spotlight on the problem. One in five Australians aged 55 to 64 is jobless. We need to look right across every area of government policy, but also deal with discrimination, deal with the fact that these people are being discriminated against in the workplace and in the labour market. We're got to break through. We can't be throwing people on the scrap heap once they hit that dangerous zone of 55 to 64. We've got to do something about. It it's a huge waste of skills and experience.

BAILEY: And you know what it's not just the males, it's also the females. And I'm surprised you're saying fifty upwards. Because I know of so many people around this region, once they hit 40, it's so hard. They're doing 2,000 job applications, and they're still being knocked back because of these job networks, you know. It's as though you shouldn't put your age down because soon as you do, they just put you in the too hard basket. 

JONES: Yeah, I think that's right. I've been talking to people around the country telling me exactly the same story. Ss soon as they put their age down, they stop getting any inquiries.

They don't put their age down and the year they left school on job applications because they know it will work against them. And I think the first step we've got to do here is send a message to employers, to business, that old doesn't mean redundant. It means experienced. It means skilled. It means you've got a wealth of life experience. You're probably good at managing your time. You're certainly not going to have your head turned by what's happening next Saturday night out. You’re more likely to be a long-serving loyal employee, and all of those assets that come with being an older worker need to be considered. But there's a job of work for Government here as well.

BAILEY: Yeah, well, this is what I'm going to say to you Stephen Jones. Are you talking hot air or have you actually got a plan to make it compulsory? That older people have a crack at jobs and you know, especially with these job networks? 

JONES: Look I think there's a bunch of things we need to do. Let's just look at the immediate. In about a month's time the Government’s going to bounce everybody on JobSeeker payments back to $40 a day. The reason they are saying they're doing that, the crisis is over. I say it not. And they say that people are on unemployment benefits only for a short period of time until they get the job, the next job. The fact is if you're an older worker, you're unemployed for twice as long as a younger worker, if you're able to get back into the workforce at all. $40 a day is not enough.

Second thing, drop this idea of cutting people’s super. It's just crazy. That's, if people are going to be retired for longer, they need more money. Now, let's look at what we can do to get people into jobs. We're going to overhaul the Job Network to ensure that it's working and there are more specialist providers for older workers. There's a job of work for Government, which is a significant employer as well. They should be a model employer when it comes to older workers and ensuring that they are leading by example, ensuring that they're not giving the older workers in their workplace to flick, that they're not the first out the door whenever there's a restructure and we've seen that many, many times. But I'll tell you what, there is another thing that came to my attention a couple weeks ago when I was talking to some workers about this. They said they work in the care services, they are working in social services area. Typically their job, the Government tenders for two years. Their job comes up every two years. And they found that so often when their job was re-rendered, they didn't get picked up by the new employer. Same job. Same work. But they didn't get picked up, somebody younger than them got picked up when the Government Tender was put out again. There's got to be something we can do in that area as well. 

BAILEY: You got to scratch your head when that's having on front of your eyes and you can't change anything. Look at the end of the day, you know for people who are looking for work, maybe they should come to Central Queensland because our vacancy rate in houses and units is 0.2. And there are businesses screaming, try and get a plumber try and get an electrician.  And there are so many roadworks coming our way. There's going to be a lot of, you know, new people coming into town. And I've got a feeling we're going to see people be living in caravans and back streets because there's just no vacancies around this great region of ours. I mean, it's a real boom and bust at the moment, isn't it?

JONES: It is. I tell you what, I live in a regional area too. I spent a few years down in the big smoke in Sydney, but I wouldn't go back. It’s a great place to visit, but I don't want to live there, I love living in regional areas. And yeah there are great opportunities there, there's no doubt about that. I know that a lot of people in this age group aren't as mobile perhaps as a younger worker might be. They might have a house and it’s half paid off, or they may have a house that's fully paid off and a partner, a husband or a wife, who is tied to where they live because of work or they might have caring responsibilities. Here’s something that surprised me, a significant group in that one and five have had to leave work early because they're caring for a partner who's had a tragic accident, or they’ve had a health crisis or something like that.

BAILEY: I hear it time and time again, Stephen. I hear it time and time again. And I hear that a lot of other the older generation are taking in boarders just to survive, to pay their rates. It's just a crazy what's happening in one of the luckiest countries in the world. Covid free. Jobs galore, but we still have this poverty that's sort of in the back room picking out all the time. Mate, I wish you all the best of luck. I don't know what you're going to do. I mean you just have to push forward don't you?

JONES: You do, and I want to thank you for helping us put a spotlight on it. Because if we don't talk about it, everybody think the problem doesn't exist. So we've got to talk about it. That's the first step to getting the solutions in place. 

BAILEY: Okay. Well, I hope you and your team can actually sit down and give us some solutions. I think we've been talking about it for far too long, Would you not agree? 

JONES: Yeah, I agree. we actually need to get some of these issues but into place. And I’ve put forward about five suggestions this morning. Let’s start working on them.