About the study

With concern about the economic impacts of population ageing mounting, the issue of mature age employment is receiving increased attention. Getting people to work longer, and encouraging more mature age people to remain in or return to work, are now major policy objectives. However, the prospect of working longer raises important questions about the type of jobs that are available to older workers and the barriers that older workers face in finding and keeping employment. It also raises the question of the purpose of living longer and whether this is to work.

Paying particular attention to mature age people who are not working, or working less than they would like, this study will examine these questions and the complex ways in which people’s attachment to the labour market weakens well before what is generally seen as ‘retirement age’. Two rounds of in-depth interviews will be carried out with people in their mid 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s who are not in paid work despite wanting employment, or who are not getting as much paid work as they would like. Through these interviews, the study will explore the relationship between people’s age and their participation in paid work over the course of their lives, focusing in particular on understanding:

  • Why people in these age groups do not have a job and would like to have one, or are not working as much as they would like?
  • What impact this has on people’s personal and financial wellbeing in mid-life and future plans and aspirations?  
  • How employment services and programs can better assist mature age people?

The information gathered through these interviews will be integrated with findings from a related statistical study on workforce participation in mature age, which is being carried out by researchers at the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, to inform more effective policies and programs related to paid work and employment services for people in these age groups. 

Research team

The study is being carried out by researchers from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Research and Policy Centre:

  • Prof Simon Biggs, Professor of Geronotology and Social Policy, University of Melbourne and Senior Manager, Retirement and Ageing, Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • Dr Dina Bowman, Senior Manager, Through School to Work and In and Out of Work, Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • Dr Helen Kimberley, Principal Researcher, Retirement and Ageing, Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • Dr Michael McGann, ARC Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. 

The research is being funded by the Australian Research Council, in partnership with Jobs Australia and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. These organisations are also funding a related statistical study on workforce participation in mid-life and beyond, which is being carried out by Prof Alan Duncan and Dr Riyana Miranti at the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra. 

Ethics approval for the study has been obtained from the University of Melbourne’s Human Ethics Research Committee (HREC no. 1339266.1). You can contact the University of Melbourne’s Executive Officer, Human Research Ethics on (03) 8344 2073 or (Fax) (03) 9347 6739 if you have any concerns about the ethics conduct of the project.

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