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Mature age workers an asset for project management

PM News
February 13, 2012

Keeping mature age workers happy is a key factor in easing skills shortages in the project management sector. According to the Diversity Council of Australia, age discrimination now occurs in over a third of Australian workplaces.

The council urged workplaces to consider mature age workers as assets, citing a World Economic Forum report that found economies with a high proportion of healthy, older workers do better. The report says: “With people living longer than ever before … society has an opportunity to reap a ‘longevity dividend’ in which older people continue to make substantial contributions for unprecedentedly long periods.”

The report found no real difference between the productivity of older and younger employees.

Nareen Young, CEO of Diversity Council Australia, said inaccurate stereotypes about older workers being inflexible or hard to train need to be addressed to remove barriers to workforce participation.

“In my experience, mature age workers often represent an experienced, hard-working and productive talent pool, with low absenteeism and strong loyalty and work ethic,” she said. “Diversity Council Australia’s Grey Matters research clearly showed that mature age workers want to learn as well as continue active links to the workplace.”

Young noted that mature age workers sought flexible ways of working, opportunities for learning and development, and an organisational culture inclusive and supportive of older employees.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan supported the council’s view. “Unless we change our employment practices and our basic thinking about suitable employees, we will create a class of older people who are very often willing and perfectly capable of working, but have been forced into becoming a burden on the public purse—ironically, when we are suffering an ever worsening nationwide skills shortage.”

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