This survey was 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.
It should be noted that many of the observations and comments in this report are repetitious of previous surveys because the responses are the same and highlight issues that still need to be resolved.
This is the 3rd of 4 surveys and was emailed in April 2017 to 2,422 people registered with DOME who were unemployed or working less than 20 hours/week and were seeking to increase their working hours. 562 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 2017 survey attracted a newer set of respondents with 65% stating they did not complete the 2016 survey, 21% were unsure and only 14% said they had completed the 2016 survey.
The percentage of respondents in the various age groupings generally match the total of people registered with DOME at the time of the survey. There is lower interest in the survey in the 40-50 age group with 16% of respondents compared to 21% of total DOME registrants. The 50-60 age group mirrors the DOME registrations at 45%. The 60-64 age group demonstrated more involvement 29% respondents compared to 23% registered at DOME. The 65-69 age group matched the DOME registrations. However, the 70+, whilst a small number, had 50% of the registered members respond to the survey.
The number of males to females was a similar response to the 2015 survey, 56% of respondents were male also highlighting a recent trend toward more males seeking employment.
75% of respondents were unemployed and 25% were working part time or less than 20 hours/week, which is a similar response to 2016.
Immediate financial commitments were cited by 49% of respondents as the main reason for seeking employment, which is the same response as 2016 but done from 56% in 2015.
Reflecting a major issue for mature age unemployed, 54% of respondents were unemployed for over 1 year, down from 57% in 2016, but still up from 50% in 2015. In 2016 the number of respondents who had been unemployed for over 2 years jumped from 29% in 2015 to 39% and in 2017 we have a similar number of 36.5%. Similar to previous years 79% of all respondents wanted more than 20 hours/week employment, the most popular preference was 30-39 hours/week.
54% of the respondents felt they needed assistance to get training to learn new skills, which is up from 50% in 2016. 30% wanted career advice. 36% felt the needed help with resumes or interview skills.
Similar to last year’s survey, the 2017 survey indicates that those with a Cert 3 and 4 vocational qualification are less likely to be employed than those with a Diploma level qualification.
Of those that had only achieved high school education 29% were unemployed, compared to only 22% who were employed, confirming the understanding that a vocational qualification or higher is needed for a greater success in gaining employment. Tertiary qualifications may not necessarily translate into better employment success when comparing the 2 groups. However, as the highest proportion (40%) of the employed participants had a tertiary qualification, this indicates that they are more employable.
The 2017 survey compares with previous surveys 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.
As with previous surveys, 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.
Responses from both the currently employed and unemployed were very similar in the above areas. Even those that had work felt that there had been age discrimination in the process of finding work.
Approximately 36% of the employed respondents considered their resume writing, job application and on line skills as Good compared to around 45% 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 93% of respondents had a personal computer and used it for job applications, and other online activities such as paying bills. Over the past 3 surveys the use of newspapers for job search, has reduced from 61% in 2015 to 50% in 2016 and 42% in 2017, reflecting greater use of technology by mature age jobseekers. About 70% felt they understood the current job market, down from 73% in 2016. 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, however the level of confidence has reduced from 80% in 2016 back to 70% in 2017. 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
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.
Recommendation: Programs need to allow for support as early as 3 months of unemployment for mature age.
Conclusion 2 – Funded Training Support
At 54%, the number of people wanting training has returned to the 2015 survey level of 56% it is therefore still very 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 42% 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. It will be interesting to see the response from the 2018 survey with more funded training available through WorkReady.
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 30% of respondents wanting advice on what careers they should pursue or what occupations have the best employment opportunities. This result has been consistent over the past 3 surveys.
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.
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, 48% 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 and 2016 survey, there were a few comments on lack of communication from DOME. The actual number of comments were again less than last 2016 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 and 2016 to encourage more employers to list their vacancies, which has had seen the number of vacancies increase from 433 in 2014-15 to 490 in 2015-16 and to 530 in 2016-17
Recommendation: Continue the regular communication with the employers and promotion of the discoverdome.org.au website, to encourage more vacancies.
Conclusion 8 – Job Seeker Assistance
There was again less of an expectation that DOME could assist all jobseekers. In 2016-17 DOME developed some basic computer short courses, run in conjunction with WorkReady JFEP project.
Recommendation: DOME to continue to expand on the short courses.