The cessation of rising employment rates at older ages in Australia, 2000-2019


Background  In the first decade of the 21st century, employment at older ages surged in Australia, benefitting the Australian economy. Subsequent to 2010, however, employment rates at older ages ceased rising for older men and the increases were much more moderate for women.

Aim  The aim of this paper is to examine these older-age employment trends in more detail, particularly the association between older-age employment trends and the business cycle. Some attention is also given to alternative explanations related to changes in the characteristics of the population and industrial structure.

Data and methods  Two main data sources are used: published tables from the monthly Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Surveys and the Australian censuses for the years 2006, 2011 and 2016. The methods used are primarily descriptive.

Results  Strong labour demand in the first decade of the 21st century stimulated the entry to employment of those out of the labour force, especially at ages 45-54 and especially for men. A cooling of labour demand following the global financial crisis terminated this process in the second decade. There were strong associations between older age employment and various socio-economic characteristics, but, in general, changes in the composition of the population or in the rates of employment by these characteristics did not contribute to the cessation of rising employment after 2010.

Conclusions  Employment rates at older ages in Australia in the first two decades of the 21st century were the results of shifts in labour demand before and after the global financial crisis. Policy related to the taxation of superannuation also induced workers with adequate superannuation, especially public sector workers, to continue working to at least age 60.


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How to Cite
McDonald, P., & Moyle, H. (2020). The cessation of rising employment rates at older ages in Australia, 2000-2019. Australian Population Studies, 4(1), 20-36. Retrieved from
Research Papers