Benefits abound when older Australians unretire
Australia’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level for more than 40 years, bringing the prospect of rising wages, higher inflation and climbing interest rates with it. The economic climate also means more older Australians are deciding to continue to work or to unretire and re-enter the workforce.
The Home Instead workforce ranges in age from 18 to 81. While most of our 4,000+ CAREGivers are younger people, 10% are aged 65 or above. Our older CAREGivers are attracted to a role with Home Instead Australia because they are looking for purpose and a way to give back. Many are motivated by community spirit and want to be a part of the solution to workforce shortages resulting from COVID-19.
Increasingly, though, working with Home Instead provides extra income to top up their retirement earnings. Many older women, in particular, have not been in a position to contribute as comprehensively to their superannuation savings as their male counterparts, so working for an income is actually a necessity.
Older workers are ideal for the aged care industry. They are easily able to relate to our clients and have empathy for their situations, given the commonality of age. Their level of experience is more than just skills gained through their past careers; they bring life experience and a level of emotional intelligence that only comes with time.
Many older Australians also report health benefits from their decisions to remain in the workforce – it helps them to remain physically and mentally active, while reducing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and diminishing self-worth.
The statistics show us more older Australians want to work for longer. In 2020/21, Australians aged 65 and over had a workforce participation rate of 14.8%, compared with 6.0% in 2000/01. Of these workers, three in five were men and two in five were women.
Recent National Seniors research shows 20% of pensioners want to get back into work, an unsurprising fact given the increasing cost of living pressures facing this demographic. And yet, only 3.0% of Australia’s 2.6 million full- or part-time pensioners are working, a stark contrast to the 24.8% of pensioners who work in New Zealand.
Removing the barriers
Australia’s pension scheme actively discourages pensioners from working. Under the Age Pension income test, a pensioner can earn an average of $480 a fortnight – or $12,840 a year – before their payments are reduced at an effective marginal tax rate of at least 50%.
Many peak lobby groups and businesses, including Home Instead, are calling for the next Federal Government to raise the work bonus threshold to allow pensioners to earn more.
“There is an army of older workers, ready and willing to return to the workplace. However, skilled aged pension recipients have very little incentive to re-enter the workplace,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Andrew McKellar says.
“Raising the work bonus threshold is a simple step the next Federal Government must take to grow out workforce, boost our productivity, and drive our economic recovery.”
Home Instead CAREGiver and former registered nurse Lynette Allen, 65, would like to work for two to three days a week. Her husband passed away about 18 months ago and she plans to work for another five years.
“There’s many of us out there who would like to work more. Some people started a career later in life so they don’t have a large superannuation to fall back on, some people just aren’t quite ready to fully retire and want to get out into the community and give back,” Lynette says.
“We have a lot of knowledge and experience to give – us older people can relate to the elderly in the home perhaps more than a really young person. It keeps me active and gets me out of my four walls every day – you can’t just keep going out every day and spending all the money that you’ve got because it dwindles away really quickly.”
Home Instead Australia and New Zealand Chief Operating Office Georgia Downes says dignity of work for older Australians is very much front of mind for Home Instead and she is keen to grow their participation in the workforce.
“Our participation rate of 10% is significantly higher than the national average of 3%, but I would like to see that continue to increase,” Georgia says.
She says a CAREGiving role is perfect for an older person because it offers flexible hours and matches CAREGivers with clients to ensure similar interests. Importantly, it meets the need for many older Australians to give back to the community while earning an income.
“I see the solution to Australia’s workforce shortages every day – in the faces of our older CAREGivers. Let’s make it easier for them to unretire by providing workplaces that welcome their wisdom, support their needs, and reward their contributions.”
About Home Instead
Home Instead is a specialist, national provider of high quality, relationship-based, in-home care for older Australians. We help with a range of personal and lifestyle needs while providing welcome companionship. Our services include assistance with personal care, light household duties, meal preparation, medication reminders, and transport to appointments, shopping and social outings. We take personal responsibility for providing the best in-home care and support to meet our clients’ needs and are committed to addressing the individual and national challenges of Australia’s ageing population.