Last updated 13:47, March 16 2015
Workplaces are somewhat two-faced when it comes to older workers, a new report says.
One of the most common ways of dealing with skills shortages was to encourage existing older workers to stay on past retirement age, the report said.
But when it came to recruitment, older workers were the least used option, well behind recruiting more female or immigrant workers.
Many HR directors and leaders acknowledged there was a “tipping point”, usually at 50 to 60 years of age, beyond which workers are viewed as less attractive.
Written by the Auckland University of Technology and the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, the report delves into the ramifications of New Zealand’s ageing workforce.
A quick survey of Kiwi workers showed 45 per cent reported their organisations were facing a skills shortage and the same believed an ageing workforce would strongly impact their industry and organisation within five years.
However, just over a quarter of the respondents believed that their managers were not well prepared for how the oncoming “silver tsunami” might affect them.
The report said workplaces would find over the coming years that there was “a decreased labour supply, and with it a sudden loss in skills and experience … while an ageing population will put increasing pressure on health and welfare systems”.
Many people now expected to work past 65 years of age, and although retirement-aged workers currently only made up 5 per cent of the workforce, they would make up 13 per cent by 2036.
Just over a fifth of Kiwi workers are currently aged 55 or older, and that was expected to rise to 25 per cent in just five years’ time.
Money was one reason people were working longer, but other reasons included job satisfaction, mental stimulation, the physical activity or a sense they were making a useful contribution.
There was also an increasing availability of quality part-time work and more flexibility in work arrangements.
People were in better health for longer, starting their families at older ages, and the superannuation system allowed people to remain working.
Yet despite all these trends, the report said most Kiwi organisations did not have a policy in place to address the issue of ageing workers.
One good reason to have a policy was the prevalence of negative stereotypes about older workers.
They included concerns about health and safety, the worker’s physical and cognitive abilities, their resilience, productivity, and their ability to learn new skills.
Many commentators had debunked such stereotypes, and many of the survey’s respondents had positive perceptions of older workers, describing them as mature, reliable, loyal and having a strong work ethic.