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10 June 2013 Posted by 

Skills of older female workers ignored

DIVERSITY Council Australia (DCA) research has found that older women (defined as 45 years plus) represent a growing segment of the labour force but Australian organisations are failing to harness their skills and talents.

The research also found that Australia’s performance in this area lags substantially behind comparable countries, such as New Zealand. The research found:

•Older women now constitute 17% of Australia’s workforce with 45% of women aged 45 and over now in the labour force compared to less than a quarter (24%) in 1978.

•Older women’s participation in the labour market is substantially lower than men’s in all age groups − as much as 17 points lower for women aged 55-64. The underemployment rate for women aged 45 and over is 6.5% compared to 4.7% for men of the same age.

•The most recent comparable data shows participation rates for Australian women aged 55-64 of 54.9% compared to 72% in Sweden, 69.8% in New Zealand, 59.5% in the US and 57.4% in Canada. Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Finland also all have greater participation of this group of women. If Australia had the same participation of people aged 55+ as New Zealand, GDP in 2012 would have been 4% higher.

•Employers can reap significant benefits if they review their attraction, retention, transition and flexible working strategies with older women in mind. DCA recommends seven key actions employers can take.

The research, Older Women Matter: Harnessing the Talents of Australia’s Older Female Workforce, produced in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission, investigates how underutilised older women at work really are and what employers can do to address this.

Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO said the research outlines a strong business case for harnessing older female talent.

“Despite growing government and private sector attention on the employment challenges and opportunities presented by ‘older workers’ or ‘women’, we have yet to see concerted attention directed to both,” she said.

“The benefits that could accrue to organisations that do this – such as improved retention, performance, innovation and market share as well as lowered legal and reputational risks – represent a huge opportunity. The benefits for the wider economy and to older women themselves make this a very compelling case.

“Australia’s future workforce will depend heavily on the employment of older women so this is not about special treatment for another group. Organisations focusing on older women’s employment are future-proofing their workforce and positioning their organisation for success,” said Ms Young.


Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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