from The Conversation that examines the challenges posed by Australia’s ageing workforce. Today, Adjunct Associate Professor Margaret Patrickson from the University of South Australia takes a look at the underlying desires and expectations of our older workers._\n\nThough much has been written about the issues that arise from workforce ageing, there is still not enough information about which older people might desire to work into their seventies or beyond — let alone whether they might actually have the opportunity to do so. \n\nSince the turn of this century, both politicians and social analysts have consistently encouraged older people to remain in the workforce. The OECD has been especially vocal in this regard, even though there is [little evidence](http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ncver.edu.au%2Fpopups%2Flimit_download.php%3Ffile%3Dresearch%2Fproj%2Fnr5012.pdf&ei=BNZjUMelFI2uiQerk4CICw&usg=AFQjCNHD6TyxO1SlqN1rpFCMKpMcxLi5RA) to suggest these desires are being reflected in increasing opportunities for older people to work.\n\nLengthening life expectancy and consequent projected rising demands for pension income to support those no longer working underpin much of this rhetoric. Australian experience, however, indicates that unless older people have scarce sought-after skills or would be prepared to work either part time or accept power paid positions their options may be limited.\n\nThose most likely either to seek a job — or find themselves a suitable niche in the workforce — tend to come either from skilled trades or professions, where skill shortages have forced employers to look outside their traditional hiring base. They include medical practitioners, plumbers, hairdressers, tilers, nurses, retail assistants, pharmacists and accountants. \n\nThey fall into two sub-groups. The first consists of skilled professionals who seek opportunities to continue to apply and utilise their skills, often on a part time or contract basis, and who gain significant personal satisfaction from making a contribution and feeling valued. This group contains a number of individuals who have previously reached high levels of expertise in their chosen profession, who command high salaries for their expertise and are often attributed with possessing high levels of wisdom and experience. \n\nA second sub-group consists mainly of those who seek additional income to support their lifestyle, and this group often has to accept unpopular hours, shift work, frequently a less skilled job than an earlier full time role, and often lower pay. Those outside these two groups — and this would appear the larger group of older people — tend not to seek paid work as they either have enough to live on or else have not yet reached the level in their profession where they can command premium incomes and respect. Alternatively, their skills may be outdated and they do not wish to outlay funds to maintain their skill levels. \n\nMembers of this latter group frequently occupy the ranks of voluntary workers in our community and perform roles on which our economy relies on their unpaid input. Many of them see retirement as an opportunity for finding personal fulfilment and exploring new pursuits not previously open to them while they were working.\n\nOpportunities where older workers might actually find work are far fewer than those seeking work and tend to be found in the peripheral workforce especially where labour scarcity or skill scarcity prevails. They tend to lie outside traditional full-time employment with larger organisations or within the public sector. A few vacancies exist in health, personal services, or in the building industry, where SMEs may frequently be more adaptable and flexible in their hiring practices.\n\n[One recent survey of employers](http://www.usq.edu.au/extrafiles/business/journals/HRMJournal/InternationalArticles/Volume10Ageing/GuestShacklockVol10-3.pdf) by Guest and Schacklock indicates that older workers — though seen as experienced, loyal, dependable, hard working and reliable — are at the same time not viewed as creative, aggressive or willing to learn or change. Whether or not an individual might succeed in securing work depends on a combination of push and pull factors. Push factors include the non-availability of full time work, failing health, downsizing, relocation or similar. Pull factors include income augmentation, skill utilisation, opportunities for new skill acquisition, social interaction and possibly working from home. \n\nResolving these competing demands provides challenges that differ significantly between individuals largely as a consequence of differences in skill, occupation, family circumstances, location and personal attitudes to flexibility. It may be difficult to generalise or develop a one size fits all approach to the issue.\n\nThere are, however, several matters that have arisen from the investigations into the circumstances older workers face and how they react to them. \n\nFirst of all, many older individuals [would not welcome being made feel they need to work after they turn 65](http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv35515). Rather, they may see this time in their life as an opportunity to explore alternatives other than working. Secondly, unless their work-related skills are up to date, their opportunities are likely to be less than they enjoyed when working full time and many do not want to have to outlay their own funds to maintain skill levels. Thirdly, finding an employer willing to hire them even for other than contract, casual or part time work may be challenging and they would need to pursue this option vigorously for success. Nonetheless, opportunities may arise in SMEs or through personal recommendations.\n\n**Read more in the series:**\n\n[It’s time to redefine the traditional working age](https://theconversation.edu.au/its-time-to-redefine-the-traditional-working-age-9829)\n\n[Retirement: a trigger for distress or welcome relief from the rat race?](https://theconversation.edu.au/retirement-a-trigger-for-distress-or-welcome-relief-from-the-rat-race-8437 "")\n\n[Older workers may be our economic salvation – or a pipeline to poverty](https://theconversation.edu.au/older-workers-may-be-our-economic-salvation-or-a-pipeline-to-poverty-9281 "")\n\n[There’s no silver bullet solution to Australia’s ageing workforce](https://theconversation.edu.au/theres-no-silver-bullet-solution-to-australias-ageing-workforce-9089 "")\n\n[Active ageing is a risky labour market strategy](https://theconversation.edu.au/active-ageing-is-a-risky-labour-market-policy-7883 "")
Will the long tail of the internet be docked by the fastidious imposition of GST to online purchases?\n\nAustralian retailers have been lobbying the federal government to up the ante on online GST by lowering the tax-free limit so that it would apply to transactions under $1000 AUD. Some have argued that the so-called low value threshold on online transactions should be as minuscule as $30. But will an unintended consequence of this penny-pinching obsession of the moment be the death-knell of one potential killer application of electronic commerce?\n\nChris Anderson of Wired magazine popularised the notion of the “long tail” as a nascent retailing strategy in an October 2004 article which he then spun out into the book, [The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More](http://books.google.com.au/books/about/The_Long_Tail.html?id=-6kY4CW0lAIC&redir_esc=y). The sub-title of the book gives away the gist — namely that Anderson’s idea of the long tail is a type of consumer demographic in which business profits could be made by selling small volumes of rare items to many patrons over a longer period of time.\n\nAnderson argues that niche products or those that have an insubstantial sales volume can consolidate a market share through aggregation that matches or outperforms the somewhat sparse array of current bestsellers and blockbusters in the entertainment arena, provided that the store or distribution mechanism is big enough to handle the ebb and flow. While runaway hits such as Fifty Shades of Grey can be purchased even in [some enlightened supermarkets](http://www.bigw.com.au/entertainment/books/adult-contemporary/bpnBIGW_0000000305260/fifty-shades-of-grey), alongside cartons of milk and other mundane essentials, obscurities such as the out-of-print 1992 novel Demogorgon by British horror author Brian Lumley can still be bought via Amazon for as little as a cent (with its current ranking in the Books category being 1,997,167.)\n\nThe demand curve of the long tail in retailing can literally go on forever as new consumers emerge to desire niche products, particularly those emanating from popular culture. What could attract these prospective customers? The blogosphere and other social media forums in their own unique way support the long tail of knowledge, creating a networked infrastructure with a distribution power that can disseminate a greater number of otherwise hard-to-find nuggets of wisdom in small quantities than more popular chunks of knowledge that are available en masse.\n\nDigital word-of-mouth about non-mainstream pop culture treasures can then inspire the curious to wander in search through Amazon, eBay or other specialty online stores. However, the thrill of the hunt could be dampened or even extinguished with the burden of an online GST. (Incidentally, is the purpose of this tax chiefly to add to government coffers and thereby increase the greater good down the track, or is it really designed to be a behavioural speed-bump encouraging people to buy local while trying to think global?)\n\nLet’s examine the pop culture phenomenon of film music and how it could be marginalised even further as result of an online GST. Film music in this context applies to orchestral or instrumental soundtracks such as those produced by the likes of [Bernard Herrmann](http://www.bernardherrmann.org/), [Jerry Goldsmith](http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000025/) or [John Williams](http://www.johnwilliams.org/). Film score appreciation currently enjoys a steadfast cult following amongst a small community of enthusiasts who are more often than not both a listener with an eclectic knowledge of particular genres of film, as well as being a die-hard collector of CDs or LPs. (Cult here implies a certain kind of studied exclusivity, the hallmark of which is usually exaggerated zeal in its devotees for something that is cool specifically because it may not have mass appeal.)\n\nBecause of the narrow demand for this artistic product, the major recorded music companies tend not to release these on compact disc for mass consumption. Indeed, film music suffered from a de facto music “apartheid” system in the retail game and it would have been segregated out of existence if it wasn’t for the saving grace of the internet’s long tail.\n\nThough currently distributed through digital media platforms such as iTunes, the range of soundtracks, once again, is tailored for mass market tastes. To cater for the clientele of genuine film music aficionados, specialist music labels emerged in the 1970s to release rare soundtracks, primarily in the US. These companies, such as [Perseverance Records](http://www.perseverancerecords.com/) and [Buysoundtrax](http://www.buysoundtrax.com/), often release limited edition CD releases of soundtracks, in quantities as low as 500 units per pressing or as high as 5000. \n\nOne would assume that the latter number is a good estimate for the global population of die-hard soundtrack collectors. If it wasn’t for the love of the craft on display by both these small companies and the dwindling film music fanbase, then the art form of listening to soundtracks in their own right could possibly vanish into oblivion. These limited edition CD soundtracks are only available via online retail stores and would never see the light of day in any of their bricks-and-mortar counterparts. Burt Bacharach’s classic score to the 1967 cinematic misfire [Casino Royale](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061452/) was given the limited edition treatment recently to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the film, as well as the 50th anniversary of the 007 franchise itself. Limited to 1500 units at a cost of €24.95 (AUD$31) per 2CD set, [Quartet Records](http://www.quartetrecords.com/casino-royale.html](http://www.quartetrecords.com/casino-royale.html "") , acting both as music producer, distributor and online retailer, promptly sold out of their stock and the item has been traded on eBay in recent times for more than double its selling price.\n\nGiven current exchange rates, the original retail price of the collector’s edition of Casino Royale would be just over the $30 mark that some retailers are saying the new GST low value threshold should be for online purchases here in Australia. But is it fair to be taxed on an item that would never be available on the shelf of any Melbourne store?\n\nOne could also argue that the GST whack could also be another “moral” tipping point for some to seek such items via pirated downloads as an act of defiance. Similar arguments could also be applied to other kinds of pop culture merchandise that don’t necessarily have broad public appeal, such as graphic novels – once available at news-stands across the country and now solely the domain of specialty stores, both physical and online. \n\nThe long tail of retail could very well be the goldmine of the internet to those with the patience (and capital) to wait and allow for treasures to be discovered. Doing the equivalent of a virtual limbo dance with an online GST threshold as low as $30 could be perceived by some as an act of injustice to dampen the discerning passions of the silent majority for the niggardly concerns of those merchants who should be improving their own business models in the here and now.
The question of whether [adults should be allowed to drink alcohol](http://www.adf.org.au/media-centre/parents-feel-powerless-to-stop-drinking-on-school-grounds/) at school discos, fetes and sports games was thrust into the spotlight this week after the [Australian Drug Foundation urged](http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/ban-urged-on-parents-drinking-at-school-functions-20120922-26e5r.html) education departments to develop "alcohol management strategies" to ban drinking at school events. \n\nParents who drink at these events may consider there is a social benefit to doing so. But what does this behaviour mean for children and young people who might be watching and learning from the example set by their parents and teachers?\n\nFirst, let's consider some facts about Australians and alcohol:\n\n- Australia has [one of the highest](http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=World+Health+Organisation+Global+Alcohol+picture&view=detail&id=4F024FFFBED037B84BB609D3F853B309E1F6D93D&qpvt=World+Health+Organisation+Global+Alcohol+picture&FORM=IDFRIR) levels of alcohol consumption in the world, according to the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol.\n\n- Alcohol is [linked to](http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/local/docs/pdf/naip/naip006.pdf) the three leading causes of death among young people: unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide. \n\n- Alcohol is a precursor to other health and lifestyle problems that impact on young people’s future: unsafe sex, sexual assault, violence, injury, behavioural problems, academic failure, mental health problems and social problems.\n\n- More than one in three young Australians were [victims of alcohol-related harm](http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712](http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712) in the past year.\n\nWe should be asking why our young people are at such a high level of risk from alcohol-related harm. And we should be looking at what we can do as a community to reduce young peoples' exposure to alcohol-related risks and harms, particularly as some of these continue into adulthood.\n\n## Modelling behaviour\n\nReducing the social acceptance of alcohol in Australia is one area we can target to lower rates of consumption and the related harms. And we know that the way adults model alcohol use has a [significant influence](http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport10/main.html](http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport10/main.html) on the drinking patterns of young people. \n\nIn fact, the way parents drink and model alcohol use – along with the rules and regulations they have about their child’s alcohol use and how they monitor this – have the most [significant impact](https://theconversation.edu.au/how-to-set-teens-up-for-a-healthy-relationship-with-alcohol-7370) on young people’s initiation to, and patterns of, alcohol use.\n\nIt's important for parents and teachers to show young people that adults can enjoy themselves without alcohol, particularly at school events where the focus should be on the students. \n\nFurther, alcohol use at schools inappropriately links alcohol and education, and encourages the adults involved to drink and drive. These actions are being watched and noted by the students and their siblings. \n\n<image id="15930" align="centre" source="EaglebrookSchool" caption="Young people should see that you don't need to drink alcohol to have a good time." />\n\n## School-based alcohol education\n\nTeachers and schools have an important role to play in reducing alcohol use and related harm by providing appropriate and effective alcohol education. \n\nLocally-developed programs offered in some schools have had a positive effect on the way young people think about and use alcohol. An evaluation of the NDRI-developed [School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project](http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/research/shahrp/) (SHAHRP), for example, [found students](http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/research/shahrp/about/results.cfm) consumed 20% less alcohol, were 19.5% less likely to drink to risky levels and experienced 33% less harm associated with their own use of alcohol, than the control group who received regular alcohol education.\n\nThe SHAHRP lessons are conducted in two phases with eight lessons in the first year of secondary school (at 13 years) and five booster lessons in the following year during phase two of the program (14 years). \n\nPhase one is targeted immediately prior to students’ initial experiences with drinking, giving them alcohol harm-reduction skills and strategies immediately before they begin drinking alcohol.\n\nPhase two reinforces knowledge and skills during a time when most young people are experimenting with alcohol, ensuring that information is immediately relevant. This period of experimentation often exposes teenagers to a higher level of risk, due to the type of drinking generally undertaken (binging) and their relative inexperience in handling the changes brought about by alcohol use in themselves and in others.\n\nThe SHAHRP lessons support students to develop an awareness of situations with alcohol-related risk, and skills training to enable them to make and implement choices that minimise harms when they're around alcohol. \n\n<image id="15932" align="right" source="The SHAHRP board game." caption="" />\n\nThe SHAHRP board game activity (right), for instance, encourages students to stay safe in pseudo alcohol-use situations by developing and sharing strategies to reduce or eliminate harm. \n\nThe scenarios in the game, and other SHAHRP activities, were originally identified through focus groups with young people to ensure they were realistic and relevant to students. \n\nThe SHAHRP program findings have been [replicated internationally](http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/research/shahrp/beyond/global.cfm) and demonstrate the ability for evidence-based interactive programs to change young people's alcohol use behaviours. \n \nIf schools want to provide appropriate messages about alcohol to young people that are going to have a practical benefit for students, they need to provide evidence-based programs that can reduce alcohol use and minimise the harm that young people experience in alcohol-use situations. \n\nSchools also need to set a clear example that alcohol isn't needed for parents and teachers to enjoy themselves at school functions. \n\n_**The National Drug Research Institute's SHAHRP resources are are available [online](http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/research/shahrp/) under a creative commons license.**_
A few months ago [I mentioned how Iran was trying to join the game of drones.](https://theconversation.edu.au/unmanning-the-war-on-terror-attack-of-the-drones-6806) The engineers of the Islamic Republic were attempting to build their own unmanned aircraft, possibly with some technical cannibalisation of an [American RQ-170 Sentinel](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RQ-170) that crashed there in December 2011.\n\nWell this week [they have unveiled their masterpiece](http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/09/2012925231354559841.html), which contrary to my expectations, has been named something fairly mundane: the Witness-129. They claim it has a range of 2,000 km and is capable of carrying a payload of bombs and missiles.\n\nThe two thousand click range technically means the drone could just about get to Israel and back to launch a payload. Of course, Iranian forces aren't necessarily known for their concern over exit plans and casualty evacuation, so the operating radius expands as far as Athens, Cairo or western India.\n\nCue media panic and discussion about the RQ-170 Sentinel's stealth capabilities and we trade up to invisible Iranian drones with nuclear warheads.\n\n\n<movie src='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x34NrA229N0&feature=player_embedded'>Iranian TV shows the Witness-129</movie>\n\n\nExcept that the Witness looks nothing like the Sentinel. Despite the Iranian's wanting everybody to think they have back-engineered the American drone, their efforts more resemble models like the Predator or Reaper, albeit with a small jet turbine. The big wingspan and the spindly construction make me think that this is no high-speed stealth machine. Much more of a long-loiter surveillance aircraft for border and maritime duties.\n\nIn other words, the chances of the Iranian drone penetrating someone's airspace and surviving more than a few minutes are pretty remote. It can't take evasive action either, since when out of ground control range it must follow a series of pre-determined navigation points. To attack Tel Aviv the Witness would need to first fly over some combination of Iraq, Jordan and Syria, needing a blind eye from them before even entering the welcoming skies of Israel.\n\nThe main threat that this robot plane would pose is to shipping in the Straits of Hormuz. Armed with the right missile it could be used to target merchant vessels or smaller military ships. Again though, it's hard to see that anyone would let it get close enough to do the job.\n\nIt's all much ado about nothing. Many countries operate unmanned aircraft, and Iran having them is no great escalation.\n\nAnd whilst the Witness was being witnessed at home, my favourite orator was rubbing shoulders with power-brokers like Julia Gillard at the UN this week. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got [to address the General Assembly](http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2012/iran-120926-irna07.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e616%2ean0ao00jjf%2ek46) and present his own flower power vision of how we should all just get along. He began by claiming Iran was the birthplace of pretty much everything:\n\n_"Coming from Iran, the land of glory and beauty, the land of knowledge, culture, wisdom and morality, the cradle of philosophy and mysticism, the land of compassion and light, the land of scientists, scholars, philosophers, masters of literature, and writers...I represent a great and proud nation that is a founder of the human civilization and an inheritor of the respected universal values. I represent a conscious nation which is dedicated to the cause of freedom, peace and compassion..."_\n<image id="15948" align="centre" source="UN" caption="Mahmoud Ahmadinejad address the UN GA." />\n\n\nThe speech was heavy on religious overtones, but the key message he had was that the UN, as it stands, sucks. It is inefficient and true power lies in the hands of the permanent Security Council members and their veto right. This, according to Ahmadinejad, makes it impossible for other nations, particularly the non-aligned ones, to have any hope of justice or representation.\n\nAnd he's not wrong there.