- Title page
- Executive summary
- Section I. Background & definitions
- Section II. Age profiles
- Section III. International experience
- Section IV. The New Zealand experience
- Section V. Perceptions and practices of Public Service departments
- Section VII. Where to from here?
- Appendix A. Trends and statistics
- Appendix B. Survey questionnaire
Section IV. The New Zealand experience
New Zealand faces similar issues to those described above. Statistics New Zealand recently noted that by the year 2051, nearly 1.2 million people - or one out of four - would be over the age of 65 years here (in 1999, this figure was one in eight). At present, there are about 18 elderly people (i.e., 65 years and over) per 100 people of 'working age' (i.e., 15-64 years). By 2051, this ratio is predicted to increase to 43 per 100.7 Growth in the proportion of older New Zealanders will increase after 2011, when the large birth cohorts of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s start entering their seventh decade.8
Our population profile is not ageing as quickly as in some other countries, but an increasingly global market for skilled young workers will mean a mobile workforce, tempted by wider horizons.
Statistics New Zealand's report Older New Zealanders: 65 and Beyond (April 2004) shows that most older people are fit and well, with an increasing number working - and intending to work - well beyond the age of 65. This is reflected in the employment rate for those aged 65-69 years, which has more than doubled since 1986. Today almost one in four people in this age group is in paid employment, compared with around one in ten in 1986. In 2001, 45% of people 65 years and over were either self-employed or employed others, more than twice the rate of people aged 15-64 years.
Professor Judy McGregor's 2001 study, Employment of the Older Worker, got responses from over 2,000 older workers in the manufacturing industry and over 2,000 employers. Its emphasis is different to ours but it does give some useful comparative information. Just over half of older workers said they planned to retire later than the eligibility age for government superannuation with another 5.8% saying they would work to over 70 years. However, few employers offered the sort of flexible work policies that might encourage older workers to join or stay in the workforce - less than 30% offered flexitime or job sharing, and less than 10% offered gradual or phased retirement.
Common stereotypes about older workers were also tested in Professor McGregor's study. Older workers saw themselves in relation to their work as:
- committed to the job,
- productive, and
- a good example for others.9
Employers had similarly positive views on older workers' reliability, loyalty, and commitment. But they also saw older workers as more likely to be resistant to change, less willing to work long hours, and less willing to train. Employers' and employees' views on training were quite different, with employees seeing themselves as eminently willing and able to be trained, and employers being either neutral or negative. Older employees also saw themselves as considerably more ambitious than employers did.
7 Statistics New Zealand, Key Statistics: Population Ageing in New Zealand, Wellington: Statistics New Zealand, 2000.
8 MSD, MED, and DOL, Population and Sustainable Development 2003, Wellington, June 2003, p. 8.
9 See Employment of the Older Worker, A Project from Massey University funded by the Public Good Science Fund, Wellington, February 2001, p. 7