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Mature age workers
In comparison, participation for men decreased slightly over the last two decades in almost all age groups, although the participation rate for men aged 45-64 years remained stable (77% in 1983-84 and 2003-04).
Characteristics of mature age workers
In 2003-04 there were 3.2 million mature age workers, making up a third of all employed people. Around 44% of these workers were women, the same proportion as that for all employed people. Just over a quarter (26%) of mature age workers were employed part-time, compared with 23% of employed 25-44 year olds. Men are generally less likely to work part-time than women, and this is true of mature age workers. In 2003-04, 11% of male mature age workers were employed part-time compared with 45% of their female counterparts.
The proportion of men working part-time increased from 8% for 45-49 year olds to 22% for 60-64 year olds. For women, the proportion working part-time was 42% for ages 45-49 years, increasing to 57% for those aged 60-64 years.
Both male and female mature age workers are more likely to work part-time as they approach retirement age, and this appears to be largely by choice. Overall, mature age part-time workers are less likely to want more hours of work (21%) than part-time workers aged 25-44 years (27%). In 2003-04 the proportion of people working part-time who wanted more hours was 24% for 45-54 year olds, 18% for 55-59 year olds, and 13% for 60-64 year olds.
Where are mature age workers employed?
Mature age workers generally have skills and experience gained through many years in the workforce. In 2003-04 the education industry employed the highest proportion of mature age workers, with 47% of people employed in this industry aged 45-64 years. The health and community services industry employed the next highest proportion of mature aged workers in 2003-04 (42%), followed by electricity, gas and water supply, government administration and defence, and agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, with 41% of workers in each of these industries aged 45-64 years. The high proportion of mature age workers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry is consistent with the trend for fewer young people to enter farming as a vocation and with farmers often working beyond the age of 65 years.
Many occupations with relatively high proportions of mature age workers require higher skill levels. In the broad occupation group managers and administrators, 47% (332,800 people) were aged 45-64 years in 2003-04, followed by 38% (144,300 people) in advanced clerical and service workers, and 37% (666,400 people) in the professionals group. Of the mature age workers who were employed in the broad occupation group professionals, 12% were registered nurses, 10% were primary school teachers and 9% were secondary school teachers. Some occupations with lesser skill requirements also contained large numbers of mature age workers. In 2003-04, 483,200 intermediate clerical, sales and service workers, 291,000 intermediate production and transport workers, and 277,500 labourers and related workers were aged 45-64 years.
Difficulty finding work
The unemployment rate for mature age persons tends to be lower than most other age groups. In 2003-04 the unemployment rate for 45-64 year olds was 3.6% (table 6.33), representing 119,100 people. In comparison, the unemployment rate for 25-44 year olds was 4.9%. Over four-fifths (82%) of mature age jobseekers were seeking full-time work, a similar proportion to that for 25-44 year olds (81%).
While 45-64 year olds have lower unemployment rates than those in the labour force generally, unemployed people in this age group often have more difficulty in obtaining work than younger jobseekers and are, therefore, at risk of remaining unemployed for a long time. In 2003-04, 32% of unemployed persons aged 45-54 years, and 44% of those aged 55-64 years, were long-term unemployed (i.e. had been unemployed for 52 weeks or more). This is noticeably higher than the proportion among unemployed 25-44 year olds (23%).
Consistent with the difficulties people aged 45-64 years may face finding work over a long period of time, they are more likely to become discouraged and drop out of the labour force altogether than people in younger age groups. In September 2003 more than half (52%) of all discouraged job seekers were aged 45-64 years.
1 Department of the Treasury 2004, Australia's Demographic Challenges, Treasury, Canberra. <Back
2 Department of Health and Ageing 2002, National Strategy for an Ageing Australia, DoHA, Canberra. <Back
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