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Patrick Comerford runs Catapult People, a career coaching agency for skilled migrants and international students.
At 58, he runs his own business and also works as a contractor for other companies.
This is an increasingly common work arrangement for the fifty-plus generation.
“What it means to me is some increased flexibility and some diversity of work but it also means a lot of administration work. It also means being all things to all people on any given day and then not having any work the next day as well, and so the work never comes to me consistently, so I’ve got to juggle balls, but it gives me great flexibility in terms of when I can work and how much I can handle work. But the most pleasurable thing, I think, is just the diversity of the work, and the relationships I have with different, they’re clients, technically, but ultimately, they’re employers.”
It’s a different reality to his previous job as a manager when he had his own personal assistant.
He now has an Australian Business Number (ABN), and sends invoices to bill his clients instead of receiving a regular pay cheque.
“An employer, a business, is far more likely to have a conversation about someone coming to do a piece of work and then disappearing again, particularly if it’s specialist work, the conversation about that piece of work may well lead to a PAYG job. But I think the employer feels less threatened if someone’s coming to them and offering them the opportunity to just do a piece of work.”
A Human Rights Commission report shows nearly three in five older job seekers experienced age discrimination.
Patrick Comerford thinks the future for mature aged workers lies in holding multiple casual jobs, while part-time work is harder to come by.
“Employers, generally, if they are investing in a person, they want to have the benefit of that person on a full-time basis in a general sense. The other flip side of that coin is some employers only have a certain number of hours to afford, and find it hard then, to find people who will take on part time work. I often wonder whether in this modern era whether people over 50 have really gotta start thinking about multiple streams of income as opposed to one permanent full time job.”
Basil La Brooy is Senior Officer at the National Seniors Financial Information Desk.
He says more mature aged workers are getting their own ABN as an alternative part-time work arrangement.
“Many of them are in the situation where they more or less are becoming self-employed. They usually have to have an ABN and things like that because a lot of employers more or less want them on some sort of contract and don't want to pay them as employees, but rather that they are a contractor and they have to look after all their tax or anything else is concerned.”
If you’re already getting your pension, you can earn up to $250 a fortnight without affecting your pension under the Work Bonus scheme.
This limit will increase to $300 a fortnight as of next year.
Self-employed workers will be able to enjoy the same benefits from July 2019.
Basil La Brooy explains.
“So someone might set up a business mowing other people’s lawn and they’re a fit 67-year-old or through to whatever age they want to do it and they’d be eligible for the new work bonus when it comes through.”
Some may hesitate working more hours to not affect their pension, but with Australians set to live longer and healthier, La Brooy encourages people to keep making money.
“If you can get work and you are happy to work, make the most of it. Get the best disposable income you can even if it does affect your pension, because if you have got work and you’ve got income that is affecting your pension, you’ve still got more disposable income than if you were on the full pension.”
Tony Crosby manages career management consultancy Associated Career Management Australia.
There is an incentive for older workers to keep working on a part-time basis to participate in the labour force, says Crosby.
“People over 50 often have obligations that younger people don't have like you know looking after older people, perhaps looking after grandchildren, perhaps a wind-down stage. So it’s multiple reasons people would look for part time work. It’s quite common these days.”
With the 2015 Intergenerational Report forecasting that Australians aged 65 and over will double by mid-century, the health industry will continue to grow with demand for more workers.
“I wouldn’t go much beyond the health sector because it is so large and there is so much demand. So I could look at hospitality or other things but there’s lots of opportunities in that health sector, very very big sector, and mature aged people are more empathetic to others in need.”
Ageism is a key barrier to older workers’ being employed, but when you’ve gained decades of professional experience overseas, and speak English as a second language, job-hunting can be extra challenging.
53-year-old Osama Butti worked as a marketing executive in Iraq for many years before entering Australia as a refugee in late 2015.
“It’s very difficult to find a job when you are over 50. I don't blame the people who are not hiring the people who’s over 50 because when I go to like a factory or something like that people prefer the young people because they do have the energy but when you like to do something and if you have the power, if you can say ‘no’, I can do it, and you prove that in front of the people so nobody can say ‘no’ to you when you are achieving something, I’m sure that you can reach your dreams.”
Through training with AMES Australia and volunteering there for six months, Butti’s determination got him two casual job offers with AMES.
A new report from the Centre for Future Work shows that less than half of Australians are in full-time jobs with entitlements.
Nevertheless, Butti vows not to sit and wait for opportunities.
Whilst getting at least six to nine hours of work a week from his two casual jobs, he’s also doing a community development diploma as a pathway to full-time employment.
“It is very hard in Australia to live if you don't find a job. I do have kids I do have a family and I do have bills I have to pay if you would like to do something you should go for it. I found myself that I should do something, I don’t know when, but if you did have two part-time jobs and maybe in the future if they would like to hire someone ongoing so you can get it.”
AMES Career Pathways advisor Drue Vickery says there’s no reason that age should stop older migrants from finding work.
The government is offering businesses that employ mature age workers over 50 years of age a $10,000 financial incentive under the Restart scheme.
Although the Restart scheme can be appealing to smaller businesses with tighter budgets, Vickery says the key is to focus on what value you can add to the job.
“Employers are keen to see what skills you are offering. So start the conversation there. But definitely it is something to introduce. You might come cheaper than other clients if they factor in the Restart but if that's all you’re offering you haven’t got their attention. Whereas, if you’re offering the skills first and foremost, and then you’re sweetening the deal with it, it can be very effective.”
Tony Crosby says if you don’t have relevant industry experience, your transferable skills may convince potential employers of your worth.
“It’s all about transferrable skills. Things like team work, leadership, personal motivation, organisational skills, listening skills -these skills are wanted across all sectors. They’re highly valuable”