The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

30 March 2011

Interview with Alexandra Kirk

ABC Radio, The World Today

30 March 2011

SUBJECTS: Panel to advise on the economic potential of seniors

ANNOUNCER:

Back home, the Federal Government says it wants to harness the economic potential of older Australians. To that end, the Treasurer Wayne Swan announced an expert panel to advise him, saying he hopes that as many as 300,000 unemployed 55 to 64 year olds could come back into the workforce. In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

KIRK:

The Treasurer Wayne Swan's urging business leaders to do more to employ older Australians. At a business leaders' morning tea in Sydney he encouraged them to encourage others to make the most of older workers. Mr Swan maintains that enhancing mature participation is one of the most important issues facing the economy.

TREASURER:

We often hear the ageing of the population described as an economic problem, but I think the reality is that having a large number of experienced and capable older Australians is a very big opportunity for the country.

KIRK:

The Treasurer says over the past decade the workforce participation rate for 55 to 64 year olds has risen almost 15 percentage points to 63 per cent. But he notes that in New Zealand it's much higher – 76 per cent. Mr Swan says if Australia could deliver a similar result 330,000 more workers would be giving the nation the value of their experience and know-how. But he's stopped short of setting that as a goal.

TREASURER:

Well it's a matter of choice for older Australians. But what we must do in the years ahead, given that we have an ageing population, is have a wider range of opportunities and incentives for those senior Australians who wish to participate in the labour market.

KIRK:

Wayne Swan says discrimination is part of the problem.

TREASURER:

Many employers don't recognise how valuable older Australian workers can be. So there has been to some degree some age discrimination in employment practices. We've got to work to eliminate that.

KIRK:

To address that there'll be a full-time Age Discrimination Commissioner from July. Today the Treasurer announced the Government will set up a panel to advise it on the economic potential of senior Australians.

TREASURER:

We are consulting through this panel about what more could be done.

KIRK:

The panel will be headed by Everald Compton who recently stepped down after more than three decades at the helm of National Seniors, the peak lobbying and policy body for older Australians. The other members of the panel will be announced next month. They'll produce a series of reports later this year. Mr Compton already heads a government consultative forum on mature-age employment, set up a year ago. He says it has to be made easier for seniors to remain in the workforce.

COMPTON:

There's got to be incentives for them to want to continue working, and of course one of those incentives is that you remain healthier and you live longer if you stay in some form of occupation, even part-time, than if you retire. Those who retire and relax tend to die earlier and wind up in geriatric homes earlier than those who remain mentally active and physically active in work activities. Now we've got to look at all the ways in which that can be capitalised on. In doing things we've got to ensure that older people can be retrained if they'd like to start a new occupation in their old age rather than start one that they've been in before - in other words commence a wholly new life.

KIRK:

The forum will have a wider remit: how to ease the transition from the workforce to other endeavours such as supporting their families, mentoring and doing community and volunteer work. Everald Compton says Australia needs a special recreation industry geared to seniors.

COMPTON:

Most seniors groups, when they think about recreation, go on a bus trip somewhere. Now there's got to be many more innovative ways that older people can have an enjoyable time in the community in the recreation that they do if we look at that very creatively and very innovatively and say," How can we do that?". And it could be that young people get jobs - interesting jobs - running recreation programs on a massive scale across the nation for senior Australians. I think we're only ever limited by our imagination.