Jobs and Skills Summit – 4 Questions

There is a direct causal link between a woman’s age in Australia and her likelihood of becoming unemployed and homeless. Women aged 50+ are the majority on Jobseeker and they are on it for the longest periods. They also constitute the largest numbers already homeless or at risk of homelessness. A key reason for this is that women aged 50+ are locked out of the workforce by widespread ageism. Furthermore, women aged 50+ have little if any super to fall back on.

The reality threatening countless older women is that should they lose their jobs, they are unlikely ever to find work again.

The Jobs and Skills summit is scheduled for 1st and 2nd September in Canberra. 

So my 4 questions to you PM Anthony Albanese and Ministers Jim Chalmers, Katy Gallagher, Tony Burke , Julie Collins,  Brendan O’Connor, Mark Butler, Linda Burney, Amanda Rishworth, Clare O’Neil, and Ed Husic are:


Why is this crisis that is engulfing Australian women aged 50+ not on the agenda of the Jobs & Skills Summit?

There are only vague points on the agenda about: “expanding employment opportunities for all Australians including the most disadvantaged” and “ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.”

The economic security of women aged 50+ is an issue of national importance. Thirty-five percent of Australian women are aged 50 and over. Over 400,000 older women were already homeless two years ago, and given inflation and the state of the economy, these numbers will have escalated considerably. 

The Summit must focus on the particular circumstances causing the high rate of unemployment of older women. Official unemployment statistics do not accurately reflect the number unemployed. This is because many of these women have dropped out of seeking paid employment after countless rejections due to their age.

This further contributes to the exploitation of women aged 50+ by turning them into a massive unpaid workforce. Almost a quarter of women aged 55-64 do unpaid care work. It is worth $650 billion to the Australian economy, equal to 50.6% of GDP. But this work is not included as valued work in GDP figures.

Unfortunately, the age discrimination older women face is generally not a factor in gender equity discussions. It is repeatedly overlooked, even by women’s groups. It must be examined as a specific stand-alone issue by the Jobs & Skills Summit.


Will the Jobs and Skills Summit address the workforce experience of women aged 50+ and present programs to provide them with training where required?

We are constantly hearing about a skills shortage and lack of people to fill jobs. This is immediately followed by calls to increase immigration and foreign workers. The existence of this large demographic of unemployed older women is overlooked in all the discussions.

They are in fact a vast resource for the nation. It must be noted that we are talking about women who have spent decades in the workforce. They have experience, knowledge, professional skills and academic qualifications.  They may need re-training for requirements of particular jobs, but that applies to many applicants of any age group. 

The latest findings from the 2022 Skills Priority List, released by Prime Minister Albanese, show that four of the top ten in-demand professions over the next five years will be in the care, health and education sectors. Many women aged 50+ have either already worked in these sectors during their careers or they can be re-trained. Let’s not forget that so many older women are eminently qualified to work in the caring economy, having undertaken unpaid caring work experience throughout their lives.


Will the Government recognise at the Jobs and Skills Summit that the amount the Government pays in Jobseeker is a direct cause of the impoverishment of older women and will it immediately raise the rate? 

The current maximum rate of Jobseeker is about 40 per cent of the minimum wage. Even if Jobseeker were doubled, it would still be well below the minimum wage. It is impossible to survive on this amount.

The Government argues it has no funds to prevent older women becoming impoverished and homeless. There is however a source of funding that the Government still refuses to tap. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres, Ken Henry amongst others, have called for a windfall tax on energy companies which pay almost no royalties or tax on Australian resources. This is what Norway has done, why can’t we? This year alone, Norway, with a population of 5 million, collected around $170 billion from its oil industry.

Question 4

Will the Government use the Jobs and Skills Summit to announce emergency changes to WorkForce Australia?

This system of job providers and mutual obligations has already been exposed as a cruel system rigged to produce profits for private operators, and not jobs for the unemployed.  

It is particularly harmful to women being rejected for jobs because of age discrimination. 

Tony Burke has announced a committee to look into WorkForce Australia, but its findings are not due for another year. If these women are forced to live so long under these conditions, many will die. How can the Government abandon such a significant part of the Australian population?




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