The average Australian worker is certainly putting in the hours, but there’s one section of the community that’s not pulling its weight: all the lazy old folks sitting around on their prematurely retired backsides, dragging down productivity and clogging the nation’s highways with their Grey Nomad convoys.

The Reserve Bank doesn’t put it quite so bluntly, but its latest bulletin points a sharp stick at the 55+ age group as workforce bludgers on an international scale despite markedly improving their work ethic this millennium.

The latest RBA bulletin looks at trends in employment and labor supply in the usual desiccated central bank manner. The study finds the lift in the 55+ participation rate has accounted for a quarter of all the labor force growth in the past five years. There has been a marked fall in the percentage of 55 to 64 year-olds who have retired.

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But despite that, we’re still a nation of old space wasters:

The participation rate of older person in Australia remains below that of other OECD countries. Australia’s participation rate for those aged 55 to 64 years stood at 57.5 per cent in 2006, compared with 58.5 per cent in Canada, 59 per cent in the UK, 63.5 per cent in the US and 73 per cent in Sweden.

So to ease concerns about baby boomers being a demographic time bomb, all we need to do is extend working holiday visas to middle-aged Swedes.

And speaking of immigration, the same RBA bulletin has an unfortunately dated look at immigration and labor supply. The study’s 457 visa numbers are 12 months out of date.

Nonetheless, the researchers reach the obvious conclusion that in these times of high labor demand and more targeted immigration, migrants are more likely to have a job than the locally born – an angle picked up by The SMH. I blame those Aussie grey beards.

And it’s not surprising that Western Australia, with its increasingly desperate labor shortage, is grabbing a disproportionate number of migrants. In the past two years, WA immigrant arrivals are running at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent of the state’s population, compared with a national figure of 1.1 per cent.

Now, if only all the newcomers came from ABBA’s peer group…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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