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The ‘Great Retirement’ by the numbers

The so-called ‘Great Retirement’ seems not to be such a big deal in Australia. But it has been a significant shift in North America. Bradley Schurman has been crunching the  numbers and in his recent article Will older Americans save us? published in Newsweek, he makes a convincing case for more age-diverse workplaces, sooner rather than later.

What is the Great Retirement?

This phrase was coined by a psychologist and professor Anthony Klotz to cover a response to the pandemic, when the number of Americans who left their jobs exceeded pre-pandemic highs for the greater part of the year. This included the resignations of older workers (55+), which, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, increased by 7.6%.

Will they return?

According to a joint AARP/Economist Impact report, it’s estimated that the US economy missed out on adding an additional $850 billion to its GDP in calendar year 2018, due to age discrimination and the exclusion of older people from the workforce.

It is often difficult to extract similar up-to-date statistics on Australian retirement, as many workers may step out and step back into workforce more than once. Gig economy work has only exacerbated this tendency.

What we do know is the similarity of workplace experience between older Americans and older Australians. Bradley quotes the AARP report in which nearly eight out of 10 older workers believe they witnessed or were victim of age bias at work.

A recent report from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), What’s age got to do with it? supports the extent of these negative experiences.

Another number that is really interesting is the projected labour force participation rate for people over the age of 75 – which is expected to grow by nearly 100% by 2030 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This contrasts dramatically with the expectation of a modest 5% expansion for the total workforce.

And then, from the OECD, the research which suggests those nations which give older workers more chance to work will raise their GDP by as much as 19 per cent over a period of 30 years.

Excluding older workers, says Bradley, only hampers operational efficiencies, is bad for the bottom line and threatens the health of the wider economy.

Which leaves us with a final question.

These numbers are striking, but not new. Bradley’s article does, however, bring them together in a compelling way.

So if we know intellectually that employing more older people is better for society and the economy – what is stopping us? And that’s when we have to turn the spotlight on those who make the hiring (and firing) decisions. Why do they continue to overlook or ignore such a productive segment of our population?

Your thoughts are welcome.

Visit Bradley Schurman’s website here