Middle-aged women underrepresented at work – report

Mature-aged women in Australia are less likely to be in work than their New Zealand and UK counterparts, offering employers a potential new source of employees as the economy continues to grow.


A Productivity Commission working paper, titled Labour Force Participation of Women Over 45, reveals females over 45 account for 15% of total working hours, up from 6% 30 years ago.


However, the commission estimates an additional 7% of females over 45, or about 200,000 potential employees, could be encouraged to enter the workforce.


The 2009 participation rate for Australian women aged 45 to 64 was 78%, compared to 82.2% in New Zealand and 80.3% in the UK.


The report states: “Given these cross-country comparisons, this suggests that scope remains for the labour force engagement of mature-aged women in Australia to grow further.”


But, according to the commission, many older women face multiple hurdles with regard to employment.


“These include poor health and disability, lack of available jobs in the local area, inadequate education and training, language difficulties, and lack of availability of jobs with suitable hours,” the commission states.


However, participation rates for older women will continue to improve as women become better educated and are more likely to join the workforce at a young age.


But despite higher participation rates, women retire from the workforce earlier than men, particularly if they are in a relationship and their partner continues to work.


Vicki Crowe, managing director of Canon Recruitment, describes divorced middle-aged women as ideal job candidates as they are more inclined to work in order to support themselves, and they are typically hard-working and long-serving employees.


“Gen Y employees change jobs a lot more [whereas] a divorced middle-aged woman has been identified as a long-serving employee. In an ideal world when businesses are looking for a [job] candidate, they’re trying to find her,” Crowe says.


According to the commission, half of the women who work full-time want to work less.


“If all mature-aged women were to work the hours they preferred, the net effect would be a fall in total hours worked of nearly 11%,” the commission states.

Crowe says women of this age can therefore be ideal for start-ups who can only employ someone on a part-time basis or can offer more flexible work hours than larger companies.


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