Sharon Bradley’s article in this weekends Good Weekend magazine (The Age) makes for both a compelling and horrifying read. It deals with the homelessness crisis impacting older women who are finding themselves destitute as ‘the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia today’. Women aged between 65 – 74 describing themselves as homeless, has increased by a staggering 51% in the 5 years to 2016. Read article HERE.
Why? As the article goes on to explain, it is not necessarily the usual conclusions (unemployment, addiction, mental health issues, domestic violence) but highlights the fact that women are more likely to be financially disadvantaged as they approach the end of their working life.
They will often retire poor for a number of reasons including:
- gender based pay gap that this generation has experienced throughout their working career,
- their primary role as care giver often moving from raising children to caring for elderly relatives
- low superannuation contributions that reflect significant absences from the workforce.
‘Older woman in general, retire with 47% less superannuation than their male counterparts’….47%!!
Increasingly as recruiters we see this. We interview many women in this older age bracket who find it essential to secure ongoing employment in order to support themselves. Their personal circumstances may have changed. They have recently found themselves single and starting over again and needing to work after considerable absences from the work force. They do not have enough money in their super fund to support them into retirement, so they are forced to return to the workforce. This same workforce, that has changed almost beyond recognition for this cohort. Their skills and experience are no longer sought after or relevant in a modern workplace. Terrifying.
What can be done? As this article explains a number of organisations including SVA, HESTA, Women in Super, etal are proactively working through some amazing initiatives to find the right solution including raising the super contribution for women to 12%. At the employment level, training, in order to bring skills and understanding of a modern workplace up to speed is needed. Mentoring support in order to rebuild confidence. An appetite to genuinely hire with diversity at top of mind. Government incentive provided to organisations to hire and retrain this vulnerable group as they transition into the work place, trainee-ships if you like! I am sure there a many more possible solutions that need to be adopted and quickly, otherwise the future for this group is looking very grim.
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