Josh Frydenberg upsets older Australians with retraining comments

While Mr Frydenberg believes people in their 50s and 60s will have to learn new skills to continue contributing to the economy, Mr McLean said the Treasurer was effectively telling prospective retirees what to do with their lives.

“I’m doing it myself, to keep my mind active and to learn a new skill. I wouldn’t do it just because I need to keep working. It’s my choice,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of friends in their 50s who’ve got retrenched and 10 years on they’re still looking for work. It would help to get these people into work now before saying to them in their 60s and 70s they have to keep going.”

Mr Frydenberg re-energised the debate about Australia’s ageing population in a speech on Tuesday in which he warned of an economic and fiscal timebomb facing the country.

He argued people in their mid and late 60s will have to work longer and undertake training to keep in touch with the jobs market as pressure builds on the budget bottom line.


The government has ruled out returning to policies that may take pressure off the budget caused by demographic change such as the planned increase in the pension access age to 70, which was abandoned by Scott Morrison when he became Prime Minister.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Frydenberg was trying to shift blame for the government’s economic shortcomings.

“Older Australians are not responsible for the fact that we have wage stagnation, for the fact that we have low economic growth, for the fact we have retail trade figures that are the worst since the 1990s, for the fact that unemployment has gone up, and for the fact that interest rates have been reduced to under 1 per cent,” he said.

National seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke said the treasurer could be unintentionally engaging in ageism by blaming older Australians for the government’s financial issues.

“We’ve heard this before in descriptions like ‘tidal wave’ and ‘tsunami’. Rather than stigmatise older
Australians, we should blame previous treasurers from 1980 who have stood by and watched this happen,” he said.

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke says describing older Australians as an economic time bomb may be a form of ageism.Credit:AAP

“Older Australians are wanting to work more and longer but they are not getting the work they need. When they do retrain, we know they are experiencing discrimination.”

But Council of the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said the government was taking a necessary step to prepare for changes in the economy that would occur as older Australians made up a greater proportion of the population.

“This isn’t about forcing people to work longer than they want to or are physically able to, it’s about supporting Australians to work longer who choose to do so, and creating and capitalising on opportunities for them to do so,” he said.

“A significant proportion of people aged between 65 and 75 are still working and more would do so if age discrimination and lack of support weren’t such barriers to remaining in the workforce, often from the 50s onwards.”

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