Mature Workers: 2. Myths and facts around older workers

Mature Workers:

2. Myths and facts around older workers

Negative stereotypes and assumptions of a ‘use by date’ are significant barriers that older Australians face when they look for meaningful work.

With Australia’s workforce ageing at a rapid rate and some industries facing skills shortages, buying into these stereotypes will increasingly come at a heavy cost to employers.

That’s why it’s so important to separate the myths from the facts.

MYTH 1: Mature age workers will cost the business more for their experience.

FACT: Mature age employees can save costs to employers through increased rates of retention.

  • Workers aged over 55 are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20-24, reducing ongoing recruitment and training costs.[1]
  • Mature workers deliver an average net benefit of $1,956 per year to their employer compared to the rest of the workforce - a result of increased retention, lower rates of absenteeism, decreased costs of recruitment and greater investment returns on training.[2]

FACT: Retention of mature age workers can help maintain corporate memory and save employers the cost of ‘re-inventing the wheel’.[3]

FACT: There is a strategic business advantage of having employees who reflect the diversity of the customer base as the Australian population ages.[4]

MYTH 2: Mature age workers may be prone to health problems.

FACT: Australians are living longer and are healthier.

  • ABS reports show that the current life expectancy is 78 years for men and 83 years for women – a two and three year increase respectively since 1994.[5]
  • A 2005 ABS survey found the proportion of Australians aged 55-64 reporting their health as ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ was 75.5% – an increase of four per cent since 1995.[6]

FACT: Mature age workers are less likely to take sick leave and experience work related injuries.

  • A 2006 ABS survey found that mature workers were the least likely group to take days off due to their own illness or as a carer. In the two week period prior to the survey nearly half the number of mature workers had days off compared to workers aged 25-34.[7]
  • ABS data indicates that mature age workers are less likely to experience work-related injuries compared to younger workers.[8]

MYTH 3: There is no long term benefit to training and developing mature age workers.

FACT: Australia’s ageing population means business will need to invest in mature age employees.

  • Based on current trends the working age population will grow by just 125,000 for the entire decade from 2020 to 2029 – less than a tenth of current pace.
  • Research of OECD countries shows that those countries that provide a higher level of training to older workers have workers leaving the labour market at an older age.[9]

MYTH 4: Younger workers are better performers than mature age workers.

FACT: Experience is a better indicator of productivity than age.

  • A study of OECD nations concluded that verbal skills, communication and intelligence remain unchanged as a person ages.[10]

MYTH 5: Mature age workers won’t be able to adapt to changes and new technology.

FACT: Older people are the fastest growing users of technology.

  • ABS data shows that Australians aged 55-64 are the fastest growing users of information technology.[11]

FACT: Older people can be trained to use new technologies.

  • International studies indicate that appropriate training provided in a supportive environment can greatly assist older workers to learn new technology systems.[12]
  • A survey of employers showed they were more likely to recruit someone with direct experience in the industry but with limited computing skills compared to a person who is good with computers but has no industry experience.[13]

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Labour Mobility Survey, Cat. No. 6209.0.
[2] Business, Work and Ageing (2000) Profiting from Maturity: The Social and Economic Costs of Mature Age Unemployment.
[3] Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care (2001) Population Ageing in the Australian Economy, Access Economics.
[4] ibid
[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2006) Measures of Australia's Progress, Cat. No. 1370.0.
[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2004-05 Cat. No. 4364.0.
[7] ibid
[8]Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Work-Related Injuries, Australia, Cat. No. 6324.0.
[9] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2006) Live Longer Work Longer, OECD Publishing,, accessed 27 August 2007.
[10] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2006) Live Longer Work Longer, OECD Publishing,, accessed 27 August 2007.
[11] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) Year Book Australia, Cat. No. 1301.0.
[12] Research and Policy Committee of Committee for Economic Development (1999) New Opportunities for Older Workers
[13] Bittman, M., Flick, M., & Rice, J. (2001) The recruitment of older Australian workers – A survey of employers in high growth industry, Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW.

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