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Will flexibility make the boomers the working poor?

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HC Online | 24 Jul 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
While debate swirls around calls for employers to provide more flexible working hours for older workers, Malcolm King says it's time for a rethink on flexibility; and there is a big distinction between flexibility of workers and flexibility for workers.
  • Shane Higgins | 25 Jul 2012, 08:20 AM Agree 0
    Malcolm is spot on with what increased flexibility in the workforce means, and the fact that the outcome may not be at all what workers want. In a perfect world it would be flexibility that suits both the worker and the employer but still has a high level of security. The figures however show that over the years the numbers of casuals, contractors and temps has increased hugely. The impact of insecure work on any worker is enormous. It affects their ability to get loans for houses, vehicles etc and doesn't allow any long term planning. It also rarely affords the employer any loyalty from the worker.
    Older workers are particularly affected and this will only increase with the current challenging economy. I own the only national website that has jobs placed by age-friendly employers www.olderworkers.com.au and many of our employers understand that if they are looking to harness the benefits and experience of older workers that it will increase their applicant pool if they offer flexibility to their workers. This is not new, but it is still a point of considerable discussion and will continue to be given the ageing population, ageing workforce and skill/labour shortage. Unfortunately the majority of older workers still working are doing so because they have to. Many of them have small amounts of superannuation, particularly women, and simply don't have enough to live on. Many are also keen to work, to keep active physically and mentally. Flexibility is a key issue for older workers and parents looking for work that will allow them to address other responsibilities,issues and interests.
    This issue needs to continue to be raised and discussed. It needs to be worked through until there is agreement with employers that, as Malcolm so rightly puts it, "flexibility is for workers, not of workers". The counter argument by some industry groups that says if older workers want flexibility then this will disadvantage them as jobseekers is a scare tactic and one that does not appreciate the experience and skills that older workers bring to the workplace.
  • Heidi Holmes | 25 Jul 2012, 09:09 AM Agree 0
    Full time work is still important to many mature age workers as well. Over 60% of our jobseekers on adage.com.au have a preference for full time work.
  • Louise Bale | 25 Jul 2012, 11:17 AM Agree 0
    An excellent bit of commentary. This is a pressing problem (casualisation of workforce). Its heartening to know people are looking over the horizon at workforces of the future. We should have done that 30 years ago and we wouldn't be in the mess were in now.
  • Wayne Bishop | 25 Jul 2012, 04:14 PM Agree 0
    Insightful article Malcolm. Paradoxically, our research shows that a significant number of mature employees would like to reduce their work hours. The Boomer life stage comes with a number of competing challenges!
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