New research released last month by the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) found that although women over 45 represent a sizeable and growing segment of Australia’s labour force, employers are failing to fully utlise their skills and talents.
The research, Older Women Matter: Harnessing the Talents of Australia’s Older Female Workforce, produced in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission with Sageco, investigated how under-utilised older women really are in this country.
Workforce participation rates for Australian women aged 55-64 now stands at 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 have greater workforce participation rates for this group of women.
So the question must be asked: Why is Australia lagging behind the rest of the developed world in workforce participation by older women?
Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO said the research outlines a strong business case for harnessing older female talent.
“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.
Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, agrees saying that Australia is ignoring a huge pool of talent and experience.
“This is a terrible waste of human capital that undermines the national imperative of growing the economy and results in significant loss to businesses. It also impacts the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of the many women who are consigned to unwanted early retirement,” said Commissioner Ryan.
Productivity Commission modelling indicates that increasing the participation rate for men over 55 by 10 points could increase per capita GDP growth to 2044-45 by 1.5%, while increasing participation rates for women over 55 to match men’s could increase per capita GDP growth to 2044-45 by a further 1.5%.
The Business Case for Employing & Retaining Older Women¹
Increased Market Share
In Australia and Europe, women control or influence at least 70% of household spending. Even in industries where buyers are traditionally male, women represent a growing proportion of the consumer base. Furthermore, older Australians are fast becoming the dominant consumer group. Australians aged 45-64 comprise one quarter of the population but they hold half the country’s wealth. By better aligning workforce and customer demographics, businesses are better able to meet the changing needs of these consumers.
Workers aged 55+ are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20-24 and because it costs money to recruit and train new employees, it just makes sense to hire an older worker. Organisations can save an average of $1,956 per mature age employee per year, generated from higher retention rates, lower absenteeism rates and decreased recruitment costs.
Furthermore, research reviewed in the World Economic Forum’s report Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? suggests that mature age workers are more reliable than younger workers, being less likely to engage in theft from their companies, be absent or quit their jobs.
A range of research suggests productivity gains associated with older women and men accumulating experience, knowledge, skills and work quality over their working lives. Research has also found that workers aged 65+ have the highest productivity and motivation levels, suggesting that life stage and experience are key drivers of productivity and motivation.
Research examining 15 years of panel data of management teams of S&P 1500 firms, has found that more women in top management improved the performance of firms which were heavily focused on innovation.
Research in Australia found that workers aged 55+ performed at their best for approximately seven hours out of an eight-hour day, an achievement other workers were unable to match.
For more information visit the Diversity Council Australia website: www.dca.org.au
1. Older Women Matter: Harnessing the Talents of Australia’s Older Female Workforce, May 2013.