Opinion: Why mid-lifers need a job lifeline now more than ever

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mid-lifers need help finding a job

Usually unsolicited doom-and-gloom polls landing in my inbox get reassigned straight to the trash folder, but this one hit the mark with so many of us worried about keeping a job.

According to money.com.au and their March discretionary income study, 33% of us in our 50s have less than $100 in our bank accounts after paying our monthly essentials.

Not surprisingly, only 19% of us in that same age bracket were hopeful of that measly sum improving in 2020 – and I’m assuming these numbers were tallied before COVID-19 sent us all scurrying to stock up on bog rolls and our favourite tipple from Dan Murphys.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia will have us believe that couples need at least $640,000, and singles $545,000 tucked away to live comfortably in retirement.

But long before COVID-19, which experts fear could leave as many as two million Australians unemployed, those targets were fanciful for most.

Rapidly-advancing technologies combined with systemic agesim in the workplace have taken a brutal toll on us. Mystifying job listings taunt us with new-age jargon, reinforcing the message from hirers that we’re past it before we’ve even begun to decipher what it all really means.

And if you are lucky enough – or skilled enough at doctoring a CV – to make it through to an interview? Make sure you go in with a thick skin.

There are few more patronising moments than hearing a 20-something recruiter concerned that someone of your ‘experience’ will find this role too boring.

Sure, we can retrain and reinvent ourselves. Plenty do and with inspiring results, or they take their hard-earned savings, or an inheritance, and buy a business.

But not all of us have those resources, and it can be daunting to take those first steps.

So where to turn for help?

A search of employment.gov.au reveals two options that apply to mid-lifers, one called Career Transition Assistance and the other Mature Age Employment.

Let’s start with the transition assistance.

Apparently anyone over 45 can sign up to have someone called a jobactive provider in your area – check the website for one nearest you – hold your hand.

“Career Transition Assistance will give job seekers a better understanding of available job opportunities in their local area and support them to tailor applications based on their skills and experience. This program provides practical assistance to develop technology and digital skills to build their confidence to use different types of technology, such as smartphones, tablets, apps, social media and desktop computers, as well as applying for jobs online.”

Wow smartphones. So that’s what’s holding us back from finding a new job? How degrading is this.

The other transition assistance options here include something called the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers in which the government stumps up $2,200 to go toward retraining on the condition that you or your employer coughs up the same amount.

Apparently, $17.4m of taxpayers’ hard-earned has been injected into this program, which is scheduled to run to the end of 2020, but has received little in the way of publicity. [Full disclosure: We did a sponsored post outlining what this was all about with one of the third-party providers a year ago and have heard nothing from them since.]

Everywhere you turn on the the Government platform there is a lot of well-meaning but mostly patronising talk – one bloke urges us to “stop hiding our light under a bushel”- but little in the way of a discernible light at the end of an increasingly dark tunnel.

Just two ‘success stories’ could be found on the whole site and in one section of the ‘news’ tab – two stories, two years apart.

All in all, I logged out more deflated than when I went in: just pages-upon-pages of patronising Government-speak and obfuscation around an issue they are clearly making no in-roads into fixing.

And in case you’re wondering, no we haven’t once heard from this department since we launched, yet our core readership are the very people they are are purporting to help.

Unless something radically new is done to help us stay employed for longer, like mandating that employers take on a minimum number of 50-plus workers, my biggest fear is that post-virus, this serious job issue can only get worse.

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