7 Reasons why workers 45+ are becoming a hot topic

Being an older worker is a hot topic at the moment – if you are over the age of 45 you may have felt ignored in the past, but you are not going to be for much longer. Judging by the amount of discussion about the ageing population, with your experience, knowledge and talent, we think you are about to become front and centre. We’ve noticed the trend over the last year as commentary has become louder and more frequent. Our population is getting older, along with the rest of the western world. We are healthier, living longer and as a result, we want to work longer. Our demographics are changing and along with this has some people’s views about a retirement that balances work and leisure. Along with this, employers’ views are also changing about benefiting from the enthusiasm, dedication and reliability of the worker who is over 45 years old, but probably not quick enough.

7 reasons why this topic is going to become more important:

1. The balance of older people versus the younger generation is changing

It is a numbers game and there is no point in trying to ignore demographics. In New Zealand, the number of school leavers is far lower than the number of people reaching 65. According to a Human Rights Commission report, since 2011 the number of people able to qualify for superannuation has been growing by about 450 a week compared to people entering the workforce – about 200 a week. There are more older people now than in the past and this is going to change the workforce age balance. 


2. The ageing of our workforce is at a tipping point.

Already in New Zealand, there are over half a million people over the age of 45 working, almost 50% of the total numbers of people in this age bracket. This number is expected to grow by about 50% in the next 20 years and by 2061 it will make up 37% of the population.


3. People’s desire to work longer

Currently, almost 90% of people want to work past the typical retirement age of 65 whether in full-time or part-time roles so as to leave time for other things whether family, leisure or community activities. Tamsyn Parker’s New Zealand Herald article “Retirement can wait” provides two stories about 65-plus workers with more years left to offer, one who just wanted to carry on, and one who took the advice of his doctor to continue work because it provides “discipline, comradeship and stimulation.” From personal experience over many years conversations with older Kiwi cab drivers reveal stories about retiring and then needing to get back to some sort of work so “I bought a cab.”

People want to stay working for many different reasons.


4. Skills shortage

With more people leaving work than being added in at the bottom there is a noticeable exit of skills and experience. John Milford, CEO of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, highlighted this in his Stu article recently “Outdated views on age will bite as the workforce gets older,” stating: “Latest statistics on the labour force participation rate ...show that in 2015 there were around 180,000 in the 60-64 age group still working, but approaching retirement age. This number has been steadily increasing in recent years and is 19,000 more than it was just ve years ago. The risk of more people leaving the workforce is increasing. '

“New Zealand isn’t alone in this. The WEF predicts that over the next 40 years the ageing of populations will be one of the biggest issues affecting the world, having a significant impact on economic prosperity (as well as social welfare and public health) because it will be harder to drive economies.”


5. The weight of discussion from New Zealand organisations

There are some non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in New Zealand talking at length about the importance of focusing more on the older age group. Diversity Works New Zealand, formerly the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, carries out the NZ Diversity Survey twice a year, in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce. Age diversity is a key part of this, highlighted in its article “Kiwi employers missing opportunity to engage with older workers.”

Careers NZ discusses the role of mature workers in the labour market and discusses many issues people and employers are facing because of changing dynamics. Retirement Commissioner, Diane Maxwell, has called for the retirement age to be raised to 67 years to be phased in by 2034 and has talked about the issue of “rampant ageism.” Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes to superannuation.

Search on the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) website on the topic of “older workers” and you will find a number of discussions about the barriers faced.


6. The older worker has become a media story

This is a story that is not going to go away. At its heart is human interest, business, economics and an issue that needs solving.

Over the last six months, there have been discussions and articles in the New Zealand Herald, on TVNZ, Newstalk ZB and interest.co.nz among others. And the discussion is not just in New Zealand.

A OnePoll survey in August 2016 comparing working habits of different age groups in Europe recently revealed some unexpected findings. The research of around 3,000 office workers in the UK, France and Germany suggested with age not only comes wisdom but also greater resilience to extra demands and higher levels of productivity than their younger co-workers.

Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, the company that commissioned the survey said - “years of experience, and the extra wisdom that brings, certainly plays a part, but also a better sense of priority and focus appears to play a big part in why older generations are coping better. It also shows that the older generation is not a generation of Luddites. In fact, far from it,” he added.

So are older workers better workers?


7. Ageism and employing people 45+

Ageism does exist – according to the Human Rights Commission’s Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Jackie Blue, “40% of workers have experienced age-related discrimination over the last ve years, commonly manifested in the form of withholding interesting tasks or promotion and bullying.” Younger bosses could be reticent to employ older, more experienced and knowledgeable people. Could it be intimidating? For some, it would be like employing a parent. Whatever it is, surely a boss who cannot manage employees of all ages effectively, shouldn’t be in that position in the first place?

We believe ageism will reduce for simple economic and team cultural reasons. With the supply of school leavers dwindling while the number of older workers grows, simple rules of supply and demand dictate that the ones who are in lower supply will increase in cost along with moving more frequently when a better offer comes along. This is good news for both younger and older employees, but for different reasons. However, for employers, it presents a dilemma and a need to change their attitudes towards older workers.

There will be those who say we can fill the skills shortage through immigration but that again is a complex issue that is not in the direct control of the employer. It would be easier to just focus more on the readily available and stable older worker talent pool. With politicians now engaged in a debate about the retirement age, an election this year, increasing superannuation cost and lots of organisations offering opinions, we are sure to hear more.


This is the environment into which Wise Ones has been launched. While the multi-faceted discussion continues we aim to provide a practical solution to keep people working for as long as they want to be, or need to be. 


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