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Businesses ignore NZ's ageing workforce

Posted to Financial Capability on 21-06-2016

The number of New Zealanders working past 65 is on the rise but a new survey has found most businesses are not geared up for them.

The study was carried out as part of the Retirement Commissioner’s review of retirement income policies and questioned 500 companies, ranging from those with fewer than five employees to those with more than 200.

It found 83% have no policies or strategies in place for workers aged over 50. And it doesn’t matter what sort of work they do: the results for those engaged in manual work, such as farming and forestry, were no different to those in manufacturing or the service sector.

Nor does the size of the organisation make any substantial difference: large workplaces are doing no better than small businesses.

David Boyle, the Commission for Financial Capability’s group manager investor education, said: “Older workers bring skills, experience and, often, loyalty to an organisation. Their input can be invaluable, but they can need support, such as training or flexibility around their role, in order for them to keep working.

“It’s a question of attitude as well. I’ve heard from people in their 60s and even their 50s who say they feel invisible or overlooked in favour of younger workers.

“As we live longer and the age of our workforce increases it’s clear that employers need to consider how they manage – and benefit from – their older employees.”

Of those who have introduced strategies or policies, they include flexible working hours, job design, an organisational culture that is supportive of older workers and planned phased retirement such as moving to part-time work.

The survey found more than two thirds (69%) of the 500 businesses agree that there’s a shortage of highly experienced workers in their industry. And a similar proportion (70%) are concerned about losing skills and experience when older workers retire. 

Boyle said: “The logical next step is for them to draw up policies and strategies to ensure they retain people with those skills and experience who want to continue working.”

The survey found 77% of companies do not carry out any active retirement planning to help their employees transition from full-time work.

“I know of some companies that make work more flexible for their older staff, for example with part-time mentoring roles to tap into that experience. It’s often a win-win for everyone.

“But I also speak to people who feel like they’ve been put on the scrap heap, and would like to work but can’t, when they still have a lot to offer. Continuing to work can give them purpose and greater self-esteem, as well as helping their financial wellbeing,” Boyle said.

More than one in five people over the age of 65 is still working, some because they need the money, but others because they enjoy what they are doing or like the social contact. That number is set to rise to one in three over the next 15 years.

The Commission for Financial Capability is holding a forum today to address the issues that workers, employers and the country is facing.

It will investigate what other countries are doing to make the most of their ageing workforces; identify the challenges and opportunities that New Zealand is facing; and address the social and economic implications of working past 65.

The Commission is also running an online survey, asking New Zealanders what age they think they will retire and why.

Results to date from 2,200 people show 88% plan to keep working past 65 and their reasons are varied including the ability to use their skills and talents, the chance to do a job that is worthwhile, for social contact and for financial reasons. 


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