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David Cartwright

Construction, Business, Economy - 5 min read

What Does Australia’s Ageing Workforce Mean for Construction?

Jason Hook

Head of Sales and Marketing

Nov 16, 2016 10:26:01 AM

There may be a housing boom in Australia, but an ageing population potentially means there are fewer workers capable of servicing the construction industry. To solve this problem, the industry will need to adapt, using both technological and social methods.

Below we explore the issue in further detail, making predictions for the future and offering solutions of how to manage your own ageing workforce.


The Problem of the Ageing Population

Australia has an ageing population. Simply, this means people are living longer and fewer babies are being born. This is a problem for the Australian workforce, because in the future there will be an increasingly smaller number of people who are capable of working. And this is especially important for the construction industry, because physical health is absolutely necessary to get the job done. 

What are the facts to support this claim?

By the year 2035, it’s estimated that 20% of Australia’s population (which will represent 6.2 million by this stage) will be over 65. And by 2050, this will rise further. Considering that there will only be 2.7 workers for every person over 65 in 2050, Australia has a very real problem on its hands. 

Further, a report by Construction Skills Queensland found that over the last two decades, the number of construction workers aged 55 or over has grown from 8% to 14.2%, representing a trend found across the nation. 

And because there’s a trend towards retiring later (not to mention the fact that the Age Pension is usually only available after 67), more older workers will be continuing to work in the construction industry. This is a problem because as people age, they become less able to perform physically demanding tasks and far more likely to experience injury. This poses numerous OH&S risks, as well as heightening the chance of having to pay out compensation and having a depleted workforce while a worker is injured.

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What Can We Do? 

As a first port of call, more needs to be done to attract younger workers into skilled training courses. This is the job of government. But it needs industry assistance. Industry groups are powerful and need to lobby the government, offering a solution to the problem. The easier the job is for the government, the more likely it will happen. 

TAFE and other learning institutions are vital parts of the training process. However, their funding cuts pose a significant risk to the training of younger workers. Targeted campaigns should be used to younger people need to be attracted to the trades and be given the opportunity for hands-on experience. 

If industry groups pressure the government to better fund these avenues and offer placements to give students hands-on experience, this problem could be somewhat alleviated in the future.


But what about the older workers?

Older workers are an asset. Their skills are valuable to keep the industry moving, particularly in the training of new workers, so they need to be protected from injury. Further, ensuring compliance standards are met will become increasingly important. 

Managers need to make prioritise health and safety by ensuring ergonomic products and technologies are purchased and used which will make jobs easier and safer. And where possible, more strenuous jobs should be given to younger workers who are less likely to experience injury. 

The ageing population poses a risk to the future of the construction industry. However, your older workers are still an asset to your business, especially if they move into less strenuous jobs and more training roles. Effort should be made to work with government and industry groups to attract and train younger workers to further alleviate this problem.

For more business advice for builders, enrol in our popular Building a Better Trade Business eCourse today.

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