Friends of ours who have just arrived back from a visit to family in Australia say the employment situation there is as tenuous as it is here.
Apparently even highly qualified people have to hold on to their jobs for dear life these days.
This opinion resonates with columns written in this publication recently by Matthew Field and myself about stress in the workplace with the world-wide business trend of down-sizing in a diminishing economic climate.
It is a fact of life nowadays that the days of quietly working your way up through the ranks to a nice office on the top floor are have long gone.
Delayering, corporate re-engineering, downsizing and other cost-cutting strategies mean that if you haven’t secured your place in the company car park by the time you’re 40, you probably never will.
The pressure to perform at an ever earlier age is intensifying by the day.
Our friends quoted an executive of a Sydney-based employment agency who said that Australian executives aged 40 are at the same stage of their careers now as an earlier generation was at 50.
“Follow that through and suddenly there looms the prospect of early retirement even before you have grown out of your jogging shorts,” they say.
In Australia, one in four workers changed jobs in the past year, compared to one in six nine years ago. Most of these changes were voluntary.
A director of a well-known research firm was quoted as saying that nowadays, people should expect to make at least one career change and four company changes during their working lives.
Thanks to corporate shake-ups like mergers and acquisitions or to-the-bone cost-cutting, two of these company changes will be involuntary.
“The job market used to be manufactured to support people for life and the longer they stayed in the job, the better it got. That’s no longer the case,” he said.
For the government, the worry is that with careers peaking earlier, more people will end up without sufficient savings to fund their retirement.
A generation ago, managers aged 50 could expect further promotions or at the very least another 10 years of fat pay packets.
Now, with fewer jobs at the top and tremendous pressure from bright 30-somethings, a stalled career is often a prelude to the dole queue or enforced early retirement.
Governments, it appears, are going to have to deal with armies of greying managers who have outlived their corporate usefulness, but didn’t stay on the treadmill long enough to save a decent nest- egg.