Workforce participation, health and wealth inequality among older Australians between 2001 and 2015

Huong Dinh, Lyndall Strazdins, Tinh Doan, Thuy Do, Amelia Yazidjoglou, Cathy Banwell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Background: Australians born in 2012 can expect to live about 33 years longer than those born 100 years earlier. However, only seven of these additional years are spent in the workforce. Longer life expectancy has driven policies to extend working life and increase retirement age; the current Australian policy, which has increased the eligibility for the pension from 65 to 67 by 2023, assumes that an improvement in longevity corresponds with an improvement in healthy life expectancy. However, there is mixed evidence of health trends in Australia over the past two decades. Although some health outcomes are improving among older age groups, many are either stable or deteriorating. This raises a question of how health trends intersect with policy for older Australians aged from 50 to 70. This paper considers the interplay between older workers’ health and workforce participation rates over the past 15 years when extended workforce participation has been actively encouraged. Methods: We compared health and economic outcomes of the older people in following years with the base year (start of the study period), adjusting for some key socio-economic characteristics such as age, sex, ethnicity, education and equivalized household income by applying the Random efects estimator with maximum likelihood estimation technique. Results: We fnd that regardless of increasing longevity, the health of older adults aged between 50 and 70 has slightly deteriorated. In addition, health gaps between those who were working into their older age and those who were not have widened over the 15-year period. Finally, we fnd that widening health gaps linked to workforce participation are also accompanied by rising economic inequality in incomes, fnancial assets and superannuation. With the exception of a small group of healthy and very wealthy retirees, the majority of the older Australians who were not working had low incomes, assets, superannuation, and poor health. Conclusions: The widening economic and health gap within older population over time indicates a clear and urgent need to add policy actions on income and health, to those that seek to increase workforce participation among older adults. Keywords: Older people, Employment, Health, Economic inequality, Australia
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    JournalArchives of Public Health
    Issue number104
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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