The aim of this paper is to discuss the ageing population in the workforce and the shift toward non-standard employment arrangements. This essay will first explore how work has changed, the issues and the implications for an ageing population in the workforce and will be followed by an explanation on how employment arrangements and the workplace has changed, the issues of this transformation and also implications.
This paper will conclude by giving recommendations on the issues raised by the ageing population of the workforce in Australia, these will focus on how can employers better handle the influx of older employees and also what the Government can do to help both employees and employers adjust to the ageing workforce and its demands. Non standard employment arrangements will conclude by giving recommendations on courses of actions that employers could do to better address this controversial issue. Ageing population
Ageing population rates are increasing and fertility rates are decreasing in Australia (Productivity Commission 2005, p. 15). Mature workers have been at the centre of policies designed to promote higher workplace participation, longer working life and enhanced savings for retirement. (Toten 2003, p. 30). Since the mid 1990s in Australia, the elimination of mandatory retirement in all states has paved the way for increasing the opportunities and representation of older workers in the workforce. It is estimated that by 2047, the number of Australians aged 65 and over will nearly double to 25%.
This increase will be reflected in our dynamic workforce and will likely result in more people working for longer than they are today. Recently, the Australian Government announced an increase in the eligibility age for the age pension. This change is likely to result in workers postponing retirement – since we are living longer than before we will have to work longer than once originally thought (Aus Government 2009, p. 9). Currently there are many older people who would like to be working but are not in the workforce.
The older people are running into all sorts of barriers when trying to obtain work, namely age discrimination. Improving mature age employment opportunities goes hand in hand with how the nation deals with its biggest social issue – our rapidly ageing population (Aus Government 2009, p. 9). To maximize and increase the potential opportunities for mature age employment within this country the first issue that must be addressed is how we deal with these barriers that older workers encounter when trying to obtain and keep work.
The Australian Government plays a large role in this topic and in the last several years a range of policies designed to encourage workforce participation and remove disincentives has been implemented in Australia. Some of these changes apply to Superannuation, increasing the flexibility of the labour market, and employment service changes (Aus Government 2009, p. 19). Brooke commissioned a study on the implications of these older workers either returning or continuing longer in the workplace.
Brookes study focuses on labour mobility, recruitment, absenteeism and work injuries. However preliminary findings from analyses of Australian case studies confirm that older workers stability and duration of employment can assist in monitoring the quality production through experience. Older workers were seen to enhance the work group applications to tasks Brooke 2003 (cited in Taylor et al, 2001). Absenteeism was another area in which current and apparently conflicting assumptions regarding older workers were held.
Older workers are thought of to be more reliable and loyal then younger counterparts, while also more likely to take time off due to age related illnesses and therefore cost more (Brooke 2003, p. 273). Non-standard employment arrangements The research indicates that in the past 30 years, developed countries have moved to more flexible employment arrangements (Louie et al. 2006, p. 466). In Australia the growth of temporary employments has been more pronounced over the last two decades than in the United States and most of the European countries (Louie et al. 2006, p. 68) though, the past decade two subcategories of short-term employment has increased; fixed term contracts and labour hire/ temporary agency labour, coinciding with a considerable de- collectivization of industrial relations laws particularly at the federal level (Louie et al. 2006, p. 469). Burgess (cited in Thurman and Trah 1990, p. 27) confirmed that in 1990 from a selected sample of OECD countries, Australia was in fourth position (behind only Norway, Britain and Sweden) in terms of the ratio of the workforce who are part-time workers (Burgess 1997, p. 831).
There are many issues surrounding this shift towards non- standard employment arrangements. (Burgess 1997, p. 832). Non- standard employment arrangements mean that employees are not considered for the range of non-wage entitlements associated with full- time employment. These include holiday, long-service and health benefits. A range of non-wage benefits is generally available to permanent employees (Burgess 1997, p. 840). There are lot of implications for non- standard employees, for example; they are often excluded from training programs, do not receive wage increase and do not have an established career path (Burgess 1997, p. 40 and Witte and Naswall 2003, p. 154). The award restructuring principles embodied in the incomes policy arrangement between the Federal Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, known as the Prices and Incomes Accord, explicitly included training and career paths as a crucial element of the process of award restructuring. In theory this offered the opportunity for many low skilled and low paid workers to acquire skills and develop a career path.
Not unexpectedly many critics saw part-time and casual employees as not receiving this advantages for being classified in such a category Burgess (cited in Stilwell, 1991). Another implication for non-standard workers is that employees are at risk of being excluded from the national retirement program. At best, employees are given a continuous employment record and access to a superannuation fund for their retirement savings. Unfortunately there will be minimal savings as their relatively low incomes and reduced ability to contribute directly, and indirectly to receive employer contributions (Burgess 1997, p. 43). Although this paper only touched on a few key areas where the ageing population issue could have such dramatic implications on the workforce in the near future, it is clear that there is a lot more understanding needed by firms and managers alike to deal with the issue of an ageing population. There needs to be a balance between the issues of the older workers and the firms and their perceptions and adequate facilitating of the older employee. Until they better understand each other’s circumstances there will be barriers and discrimination. These barriers must be addressed sooner rather than later.
The Australian Government needs to adopt a more holistic approach that has multiple components that address a broad range of issues that include but not limited to age discrimination, workforce health, skills and training and incentive packages. For these to be implemented successfully they must co-ordinate their efforts with the industry nationwide. Constant monitoring of the process and reviews must be done to ensure that there aren’t conflicting policies. In the other hand, since the majority of part-time employees are casuals, their lack of rights is already enshrined in industrial awards, e. g. ismissal without notice. The general conditions associated with part-time employment indicate that more active policies are required in the area of part-time employment. The research indicates that a possible action to improve the conditions associated with non- standard employees is for instance, trade unions could recruit among part-time employees more actively; this way they will represent the interest of part-time employees more actively. This has already been signaled by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a necessary strategy to address declining trade union densities in Australia (ACTU, 1992).
There are already examples of trade unions that effectively decasualizing part-time employment and they are integrating part-time workers (mainly females) into the range of benefits and career options available for full-time workers (Romeyn, 1992, ch. 5). Reducing the extent of casual employment associated with part-time employment will not remove all the above concerns, but it does represent one of the main sources of disadvantage suffered by part-time employees (Burgess 1997, p. 843). References list: Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing (on-line) 2009, Experience works.
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