Understanding the retiree workforce

| March 18, 2021

The research is rock-solid and indisputable. Work is good for our mental health[1].

Getting people into work improves the collective mental health of our nation, drives stronger economic growth and better corporate performance (the more people we have in work the more people we have to buy our goods and services), reduces crime and drug abuse, lowers divorce rates  … and just generally makes us all happier.

But in the drive to find all Australian’s a job there is one very large sector, estimated at over 2 million people, that is neglected.

They are our retirees.

Surveys have consistently shown that up to 50% of retirees would like to work if they could find the right job. But they can’t, so they are sidelined.

The retiree workforce is highly experienced, responsible and mature. They typically require no training, support or supervision. They are productive and flexible. Many are happy to work when the employer has a need, and not work when that need passes.

This flexibility is good news for employers seeking to build a fast moving and highly adaptive workforce, keeping costs low and skill levels and experience high.

But in spite of the obvious benefits to both the retiree and the employer, very few retirees can find a job that interests them. This enormously rich market of highly skilled workers remains largely untouched.


To answer this we need to understand one critical thing – the work needs of retirees are not like those of other employees. Unlike younger worker who will often fit their lifestyle around their job, retirees will not. Retirees will only work if the job accommodates their retirement lifestyle ambitions. They are not going to give away the Friday’s they spend with their grandchildren to go to the office. They are not going to curtail their holiday plans to fit in with the typical 4 weeks annual leave provisions of most jobs. They will not give up their weekly golf game. Work must accommodate their retirement lifestyle, not the other way around.

This can be tough for some employers to deal with. The job is as described, take it or leave it!

But we need to remember that many retirees are volunteers. They don’t need to work. Many are not working for the money, but because they want to. So if we are to get them to work for us, we have to show some flexibility. If we do, then as discussed above, this flexibility works to the great advantage of both the retiree and the employer. It is a true win-win.

If all of this isn’t enough to convince employers to hire retirees then remember that very soon you may have no choice. Australia’s population is aging fast. Today 18% of our population is over 65. But in less than half a generation from now, this will be 25%. If employer’s want good people they will have to access the retiree market. There simply won’t be enough younger people to fill the job needs of corporate Australia.

Those who move now to position themselves as ‘employer of choice’ in the retiree market will be the big winners.

How does your business support employees’ mental health?

Post a comment on First 5000 – Have your Say on LinkedIn today or email editor@first5000.com.au with your story.


[1]IS WORK GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING? Gordon Waddell, CBE DSc MD FRCS A Kim Burton, PhD DO EurErg Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, Cardiff University, UK 2006