The IRC Industry Skills Forecasts have identified Australia’s ageing workforce as a considerable challenge to industry. As workers retire, businesses face an increasing risk of knowledge and skills gaps.

This chart summarises the age distribution of the workforce over the last 32 years. The stand out change is the doubling of the number of workers aged over 55 in that time. Other trends are explained below.

Within each age category (horizontal axis) the lines from pale to dark pink represent the years from 1985 – 2017 (white lines are separators of age categories). The height of the bars represents the percentage of Australian workers at that age-group (vertical axis).


  • Australia’s workforce shows an increasing percentage of people aged over 45
    o 40 per cent of workers over 45 in 2017, compared with 24 per cent in 1985
  • Workers aged over 55 have doubled over the same time, from 9.5 per cent in 1985 to 19 per cent in 2017
  • People aged over 65 constituted 1 per cent of the labour market in 1985. This has grown to 4 per cent in 2017
  • The percentage of workers aged 30 to 40 has dropped from 26 per cent to 22 per cent
  • Between 1990 and 2017, the number of young people (aged 15-19) in the workforce has dropped from nine per cent to approximately five per cent
  • Since 1985, there has been a steady decline in the workforce participation of the 20-24 age group, from 14 per cent to just below 10 per cent in 2017


Article courtesy of Australian Industry Standards.