This is how older workers are changing the workforce

Picture: iStock.

There is a new trend in the workforce — “unretirement”.

Demographic change in Australia and other developed economies is seeing slower growth in the workforce and increasing participation by older workers.

Business leaders need to ensure their organisation is prepared by offering appropriate training and flexibility.

Researchers at US think tank The Rand Corporation came up with the new term.

One study of what they are calling “unretirement” found that 82 percent of retirees who returned to work anticipated doing so all along and weren’t forced to do so by financial shocks, poor planning, or lack of savings.

For the small minority who unexpectedly returned to work, the evidence suggests they did so because retirement was less satisfying than expected.

In a survey of US retirees, they found that “more than half of retirees 50 and older said they would work in the future for the right opportunity” and the percentage is even higher among the college-educated. Meanwhile, 39 percent of workers 65 and older who are currently employed had previously retired at some point.

In fact, older people are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce.

One in five workers today is 55 or older; by 2024, that number will be one in four, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Similarly, in Australia, the government calculates that the proportion of older Australians participating in the labour force doubled between 2000 and 2015 — from 6% to 13% — and this is expected to continue to grow.

You might expect finances to be the reason older people are working longer and it is for many.

As people live longer, healthier, and more active lives, they also need income to last through their old age.

However, another survey by The Rand Corporation found that older job seekers are less likely than their younger counterparts to rate formal benefits — such as health insurance, life insurance, or paid time off — as essential or very important. In fact, they found that meaningful work is considered a key reason that older workers delay retirement.

These demographic trends mean that businesses are going to need to focus on training older workers to keep them up to date as well as organising work to assist retaining them (for example through more part-time or flexible work hours).

To find out more about the trends shaping the future of the Australian workforce, read the BI / Research Job Creation Report here.

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