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Jobs and Skills Summit must seek to unlock the labour potential of middle-aged women: report


As the Jobs and Skills Summit kicks off a new White Paper on Employment, a new report is calling for more focus on engaging excluded women from the labour market, particularly those in the 45-55 age bracket.

The McKell Institute drew on the latest available Census and Labour Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to find that the gap between male and female employment is actually at its greatest in the 45-49 age group.

“The public debate around women’s workforce participation usually centres around young children, but our report finds the gap between male and female employment continues to increase. It is actually at its greatest when Australians hit their mid-to-late forties,” said McKell Institute Queensland Executive Director Sarah Mahwinny.

“Women continue to bear the brunt of caring responsibilities, and we know that once they leave the workforce, they are less likely to return.

“To address workforce participation, the Jobs and Skills summit must examine the barriers to participation and identify the additional services required to aid older women currently excluded from participation.

“Women report caring responsibilities, access to suitable affordable housing, costs associated with training and employment, and insufficient digital literacy. All of these must be explored.

“Supporting women’s workforce participation should start with early childhood education but must not end there.

“Women in their forties and fifties have tremendous potential to boost the Australian economy. At the same time these are the women who report the greatest gender gap in superannuation balances and are the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness.

“Failing to consider these real barriers to participation is effectively accepting that older women will continue to be excluded from the workforce. We should not accept this as an outcome for anyone in our community.”

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