This is the second survey, commissioned as a component in a 4 year Mature Age Employment Project managed by the DOME Association and sponsored by the Department of State Development.
The objective is to conduct a longitudinal study over 4 years on factors that affect the ability of mature age people to find employment. Such as age discrimination, skill levels, perceived and real attitudes and barriers to employment faced by the mature age.
The survey was emailed in April 2016 to 2,529 people registered with DOME who were unemployed or working less than 20 hours/week and were seeking to increase their working hours. 593 people or 23% of people contacted responded to the survey. The participants resided in the Adelaide Metropolitan area, the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu regions.
The percentage of respondents in the various age groupings match the total of people registered with DOME at the time of the survey in the 40-50 and the 60+ age groups. Where there is a divergence is in the 50-54 age group which represents 21% of total registrations but only 17% of survey respondents and in the 55-59 age group which represents 26% of total registrations but 32% of survey respondents. The most prominent age group of respondents in this years survey was in the 55-65 age group with 58%.
The number of males to females was a similar response to the 2015 survey, 60% of respondents were male also highlighting a recent trend toward more males seeking employment.
73% of respondents were unemployed and 27% were working part time or less than 20 hours/week, which is a similar response to 2015.
Immediate financial commitments were cited by 49% of respondents as the main reason for seeking employment, which is down from the 56% response in 2015.
Reflecting a major issue for mature age unemployed, 57% of respondents were unemployed for over 1 year, which is up from 50% in 2015. Similar to the 2015 survey, 29% were unemployed for over 2 years and 80% of all respondents wanted more than 20 hours/week employment, the most popular preference was 30-39 hours/week.
50% of the respondents felt they needed assistance to get training to learn new skills, 32% wanted career advice. 37% felt the needed help with resumes or interview skills.
The 2016 survey compares with the 2015 survey in jobseeker perceptions and experiences with their job search. When asked about the factors that might have affected their applications for jobs the main issues were that younger recruitment consultants discriminated against older people, recruiters had a lack of industry knowledge and understanding of the relevance of the applicants skills and experience, most felt they were considered too old by employers, they felt they needed specialised skills development to fit job requirements but also felt they had been perceived as over qualified and most considered the current job market as too competitive.
Issues such as caring responsibilities, language or ethnic differences, gender issues, interaction with the recruiter, mismatch with workplace culture and ill health or disability were not considered to negatively affect job applications.
Approximately 46% of the employed respondents considered their resume writing, job application and on line skills as Good compared to around 42% of the unemployed respondents. A similar ratio of respondents rated their skill in this area as Poor to Fair, indicating the need for more support in this area.
Around 90% of respondents had a personal computer and used it for job applications, and other online activities such as paying bills. Only 50% used the newspapers for job search, which was down from 61% in the 2015 survey reflecting greater use of technology by mature age jobseekers. About 73% felt they understood the current job market. Despite the difficulties in finding work, both employed and unemployed were more confident that they had existing skills that were in demand in the current employment market with increases to 80% against the 2015 survey of 68%. Even so 92% were willing to learn new skills to gain employment. In use of technology, the yes responses were marginally higher for the employed group, indicating slightly higher usage and a more positive attitude and understanding of the job market.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Conclusion 1 – Early Intervention
As with the 2015 survey responses from this survey and other statistical evidence indicate that early intervention with this demographic is still key to preventing the issue of long term unemployment for mature age. This report and other analysis indicate that the average time spent unemployed by the mature age is between 60 and 75 weeks. Support programs should not be structured to wait for 6-12 months before mature age unemployed become eligible for job search assistance. Comments received in this survey indicated that the longer people are out of the workforce the harder it is to break back in. See page 39.
Recommendation: Programs need to allow for support as early as 3 months of unemployment for mature age.
Conclusion 2 – Funded Training Support
Even though the number of people wanting training has reduced from the 2015 survey it is still clear from the response to Question 7 that there is a need for funded training to obtain new or upgraded skills to gain employment. This sentiment was repeated in Question 9 where 43% agreed or strongly agreed that they needed more specialised skills development to fit the job requirements. Many commented on the desire to do training but without the means to pay for it.
Recommendation: that further funding be made available for unemployed mature age to access training in areas likely to gain employment.
Conclusion 3 – Career Advise
There was also a strong response to the need for career advice, with 32% of respondents wanting advise on what careers they should pursue or what occupations have the best employment opportunities.
Recommendation: Continued and increased funding for career advice services for the mature age unemployed.
Conclusion 4 – Addressing Age Discrimination
Nothing has changed from the 2015 survey, so I have repeated the same comments on age discrimination.
Whether it is real or perceived, age discrimination is still considered the major obstacle to gaining employment for the mature unemployed. It was interesting that responses about gender discrimination indicated this was not an issue, which demonstrates that the higher level of awareness of gender discrimination has created some social change. Apparently, not so the case with age discrimination.
Recommendation: Programs to create greater awareness of the value of the older worker are continued and developed.
Conclusion 5 – Recruiter Industry Knowledge
There was a perceived improvement in this area with a reduction in the people seeing this as an issue, however, 47% is still a high number and needs more attention.
Recommendation: Programs such as the Australian Jobs Guide, the Career Choices in SA jobs guide be continued and updated to assist recruiters to stay current with the skills requirements and be able to relate this to the experience and skills of the older worker.
Conclusion 6 – Job Seeker Communication
As with the 2015 survey, there were a few comments on lack of communication from DOME. The actual number of comments were less than last survey, reflecting the impact of the candidate contact program initiated in late 2015 through phone calls and emails.
Recommendation: DOME to continue this program of member contact in addition to the job referral and case management programs already in place.
Conclusion 7 – Job Seeker Expectations
Negative comments around the availability of jobs whilst sometimes directed at DOME have been more directed at the general state of the SA economy and the increased competition for jobs. DOME commenced a program in 2015 to encourage more employers to list their vacancies, which has had some success.
Recommendation: Continue the regular communication with the employers and promotion of the http://discoverdome.org.au website, to encourage more vacancies
Conclusion 8 – Job Seeker Assistance
There was less of an expectation that DOME could assist all jobseekers. DOME did develop a job seeker club which received some interest. In more recent times DOME has developed some basic computer short courses, run by volunteers which has generated more interest.
Recommendation: DOME to continue to expand on the short courses.