Anthony Albanese's push to get over-45s into work

Australia has failed its older people, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese says, promising a strategy to keep them in work and boost retirement incomes.

Anthony Albanese, who will deliver a landmark speech focused on older Australians on Wednesday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Anthony Albanese, who will deliver a landmark speech focused on older Australians on Wednesday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

More than 72,000 Australians aged 55 to 64 are unemployed, and over-45s who lose their job struggle to get work again, he says. Instead, they face "spiralling down towards a pretty lean retirement".

Mr Albanese who will deliver a speech on the topic in Queensland on Wednesday, draws on his mother's experience to promise better treatment.

"Having seen what my mum went through in her later years, I want to be able to make a difference," he says in the speech.

"... She experienced years of sickness and struggle. She died too young at just 65. If Mum had got the care she needed, her later years would have been so much better.

"I don't want us to all shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to this simply being the way."

In 1927, just 5 per cent of Australians were 65 or older. By 2017, that figure was 15 per cent, and by by 2057, it is expected to be 22 per cent, Mr Albanese says. In response, he promises to develop a "positive ageing strategy".

He accuses the government of denigrating older Australians by describing them as an economic time bomb.

Pensions had been hit in 2015 by changes to the asset test and people were waiting months for pensions to be processed, he will say. Stagnant wages were undermining retirement incomes and retirement incomes had also been impacted by interest rates.

He points to age discrimination that leaves over-45s struggling to find work if they lose their job and called for cultural change among employers.

Deloitte Access Economics had found that a 3 per cent increase in workforce participation by over-55s would bring a $33 billion boost to the economy each year.

As the government review retirement incomes amid calls to halt the next increase in compulsory superannuation, Mr Albanese will restates Labor's commitment to boost compulsory superannuation to 12 per cent by 2025. He criticises the Council of Social Service and others who say increasing superannuation payments will result in lower wages.

He says Labor will improve superannuation, pointing to women retiring with less than men. But he makes no specific commitment in that area.

He also points to the long waits for public dental care, record out of pocket health costs and private health insurance premiums, and long wait times for cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements. He pointed to the fast rise in dementia, now the leading cause of death for women. He makes no specific commitments in these areas.

His speech will focus on better urban design to reduce loneliness, using the compact city of Toyama in Japan as an example.

He suggests day respite for older people co-located with childcare, and calls for urgent reform to the "broken" aged care system.

The problems facing older workers have preoccupied the parliament for years, with a parliamentary inquiry in 1999 pointing to long-term unemployment among over-45s.

In 2011, the Labor government commissioned expert advice on how to harness the economic potential of older Australians, which found the failure to use their skills was already costing $10.8 billion a year and 2 million older Australians wanted work but couldn't get it.

Research by the Age Discrimination Commissioner has found a significant number people in charge of hiring would not recruit anyone over 50 because of stereotypical biases.

This story Albanese's push to get over-45s into work first appeared on The Canberra Times.