A leading expert in labour market studies has determined that workplaces who don’t invest in the health and wellbeing of older workers are effectively shooting themselves in the foot.
In addition to the ROI for individual workplaces, as a result of improved older worker healthcare, Australia would also enjoy boosts to the employment rate and real GDP would be higher. That’s the finding of research conducted by Dr George Verikios of the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University – and better managed healthcare of older workers is the starting point.
“Days off and withdrawing from the labour force increase production costs for businesses and make it harder to find workers. If there was better health management for older workers these impacts would be reduced,” Dr Verikios said. “We found health improvements for 10% of the unhealthiest older workers (those aged 49-60) could have strong effects on the country’s economy.”
Dr Verikios said the labour market was the main area of the economy to be affected by the indirect costs of disease as demonstrated by reduced labour productivity and workforce participation.
“By looking at chronic disease and the associated rate of health decline of workers, we found reducing poor health in older workers would have a much greater effect on the Australian economy than similar reductions for younger workers,” Dr Verikios said.
Yet with improved health programs and interventions in place, the health of older workers would decline more slowly and their workforce participation would also decline more slowly as they aged.
“Workforce participation by younger workers is less affected by their health compared with older workers, so there are smaller benefits from improving the health of younger workers,” Dr Verikios said.
The research also found that companies that face overseas competition such as agriculture and manufacturing would benefit from the increase in labour. According to the findings, this increased benefit would mean improvement in Australia’s trade balance from higher exports relative to imports.