A few days ago, the monthly Labour Force survey for February was released and the news raised some concerns.
Over the month, the number of unemployed persons increased by 1,800.
On seasonally adjusted figures, there was a decrease of 7,300 persons in full-time employment.
Monthly hours worked increased by 1.9% over the past year, which was below the 2.3% increase in employed persons.
The average hours worked per employed person was 138.5 hours per month. In August 2013, average hours worked per month was 141.7 per employed person. Multiply that by over 12.7 million people in work and it is a significant loss of hours.
Scott Morrison has promised, without any plan other than tax cuts, to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years. Aside from his previous comments that governments don’t create jobs, the ABS report that, over the past year, the labour force increased by 237,500 persons, so 250,000 new jobs per year barely keeps up with the current workforce increase let alone the future as we grow.
When they talk about participation rates, they use the age bracket 15-64 year olds, ignoring the staged increase in the entitlement age for the aged pension. For anyone born after 1 July 1952, they are no longer eligible on their 65th birthday and those who were born after 1 January 1957 must wait until they are 67.
As our parents live longer and our children breed later, people in their 60s now often have to work as well as provide care for aged parents and childcare for young grandchildren as their daughters return quickly to the workforce. They are often the people who fill volunteer roles.
Many people use up their superannuation during those years or are forced onto Newstart or a disability pension. It has also been suggested that they should raise the age at which super becomes available.
A different strategy would be to value the caring role that people of that demographic play.
If people in their 60s had the option to work or to fill that caring and community role, it would free up some jobs for younger people. It would allow parents to return to work without such crippling childcare costs. It would facilitate elderly people staying in their own homes longer. I also think retirees could play a far greater role in training and mentoring inexperienced workers. (As could young people in helping older people learn about new technology).
Rather than increasing entitlement ages, how about we decrease them back to 60, increase the aged pension but tighten up assets and income tests, and make some space for our young people to get a start. Or perhaps have some sort of transition to the pension payment where people in their 60s could have their caring and volunteer work see them eligible for some part-payment.
When costing these alternatives, notice should be given to the economic benefit of lessening of demand for aged and child care places and the social benefit to the community of volunteer services like Meals on Wheels or school canteen duty or Landcare groups.
The government has acknowledged that we have an aging population. Rather than considering that a problem, it’s time to work out how to make the best use of us.
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