Study finds older workers look to the future

Contrary to recent media reports, a new study from Griffith University has found that many older workers enjoy their jobs and are embracing new technology and training.

The survey of 286 Australian workers in technical, para-professional and professional employment aged 45 and over, found most were not subject to age-bias and enjoyed opportunities for training and advancement.

“Many of these workers are employed in work that is not just tolerant of older workers but sees their attributes as assets,” said Professor Stephen Billett from the Griffith Institute of Educational Research.

“The concern here is retaining such workers aged over 45. The Federal Government’s strategy to help support and train older workers will help address this issue.”

Professor Billett and his team also interviewed more than 60 of the respondents and found most engaged in new activities and embraced technology, and the majority did not experience age-related bias.

“The evidence suggests these workers continually learn when remaining competent in their work. So, governmental and employer investment in skill development for workers aged over 45 seems warranted.”

“Older workers are less mobile than their younger counterparts, their work is important to them as is being recognised as competent workers, and they are keen to pass on their knowledge to others.”

When asked what would cause them to leave the workforce earlier than their intended retirement age, many said the way they were treated at work was central to their decision-making.


While less interested in promotion, if they are unable to engage in interesting work, denied opportunities for passing on their knowledge or not respected and acknowledged by their peers and the workplace, they will likely retire earlier than intended from working life.

“Actions by government and employers to sustain the effective working lives of Australians aged over 45 will need to respond to different needs and requirements. Some workers are likely to remain working in environments where they are respected and their age is not a factor, but seen as an asset.

“However, other workers are likely to move to other forms of employment in the latter decades of their working lives.

“For example, a concreter is classed as an older worker at 40. Here, vocational education provisions will be required to assist this kind of worker to engage in another occupation.”

The Griffith study is part of an international ARC Linkage grant.