When you get into your later years life is meant to be a little easier. The kids have all grown up and for the most part flown the coop, the car doesn’t need to be as big as when you had to cart them all around to Saturday sports and the shopping bills aren’t as large. As many of us move into their later years and head towards retirement its time to look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel and the ultimate long lunch. If only that was the case.
As an army of people across the developed world head into retirement the truth is altogether different as the dynamics of our economies begin to shift and the question of affordability begins to creep into the equation. In Australian alone the population of over 65’s is expected to increase to 25% in the coming decades while in Japan and New Zealand there are also distinct similarities. Today, and again using Australia as the benchmark, personal credit card debt now stands at more than $340 billion with a growing number of people now 30 days and more in mortgage arrears.
If interest rates do go up, and the Reserve Bank of Australia has prepared the nation for this to be the case, by only a single digit the number of people who can no longer pay the mortgage will also increase. Put that against the problem of a rise in the number of underemployed, now standing at more than 1.1 million, the progressive casualisation of the work force and the only summation you can make is this – Houston we have a problem.
When it comes to the world of work we are somehow fixated by the need to employ younger workers but what happens when the pool of younger workers dries up? It is estimated in the aged care sector alone, as the over 65’s reach 25% of the total population, the workforce needed to service this group will need to grow from 100,000 to 800,000. And of course everything else flows from that; such as a dip in the number of active participants in the workforce to feed the tax base that creates the revenue the Government needs to keep the lights on.
Another couple of pieces of social data should also be ringing alarm bells when it comes to women 50 plus. For those who decided to break from traditional relationships and going it alone the vast majority are doing so with little financial support behind them. Consider this, women in the older age category generally have less money wrapped up in super than their male counterparts due mainly to the fact they have, on average, spent less time in the workplace. When they do divorce sure they will get on average half of the assets but it will never be enough, in many cases, to be able to buy out the family home let alone enter as a first home buyer into an over heated market. Not all first home buyers are in their twenties and thirties. Data out in recent weeks shows that women in the mature aged demographic are increasing in number when it comes to homelessness. And the trend cycle of women in that same demographic who are taking their lives is also on the up.
Houston, we still have a problem.
As we all look to a future where our economy is in rapid change, as industries transition, some fall and some grow; as we seek to hire young people because all of the mature aged workers can’t possibly be worth as much and as our entire world of work changes we should be mindful of the value older workers bring to the table. Maturity, experience, knowledge, loyalty and hard work.
Older workers themselves play a role in our changing world – the reality that the jobs of yesteryear and today may not be around tomorrow mean we really need to think outside of the box when it comes to what we think work actually is and how a second career may present. A second career that could see us doing something we never expected or even that something we always wanted to do but was to afraid to give it a shot.
Whatever the case is; in order for our economy to grow, to diversify and generate wealth for all we must leave no one behind because of each of us has a role to play and a responsibility.
Young, middle aged and old alike. We call that society and when we understand that it could very well be that “Houston, we’re good to go.”
Matthew Tukaki is the Host of the nationally broadcast Radio Show, Second Career on Talking Lifestyle across Australia. He is the former Head of Drake International, the worlds oldest and one of the largest employment companies and chairman of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention.
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