Australia, along with the other developed economies, is grappling with the implications of an ageing population. Concerns about increasing welfare costs and shortfalls of labour supply have brought with them calls to prolong working lives. However, current public policy is inadequate if the nation wishes to make the best use of its ageing workforce. Present approaches to both public policy and advocacy have the potential to be harmful in terms of their response to age barriers in society. A piecemeal set of measures lacking legitimacy have emerged, with objectives that lack a road-map for how they will be achieved.
This report attempts to offer a fresh approach, challenging the basis of the present advocacy on ageing and work. Against a background of apparent age inequality in the Australian labour market affecting both young and old, recent efforts aimed at overcoming barriers to older workers are considered and critiqued. The report offers a framework for developing public policy on age and work, proposing principles against which the legitimacy of actions should be tested.Tackling issues of age and work has huge potential to increase the nation’s productive capacity but this is a long-term project that requires attention not only to today’s older people but, importantly, tomorrow’s. Greater reflection on the meaning of age in Australian society is needed and advocates for older people need to rise to the challenge of setting an inclusive agenda that resonates for people of all ages.