Older workers untapped resource

An ageing population, a declining birth rate and a deepening skills shortage means a perfect storm is brewing on how New Zealand manages its ageing workforce.

A white paper called Act Now Age Later, launched by the Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, calls for a National Strategy on the Ageing Workforce and the development of a toolkit for employers and workers.

The report is the result of a working group made up of government departments and agencies, including the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC), the Council of Trade Unions, recruitment companies and the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell says New Zealand’s ageing workforce is part of a global trend that should be faced as an opportunity rather than a crisis.

“This is a predictable demographic change that we can’t afford to ignore,” Ms Maxwell says. “Some of us will need to work past 65; many of us will want to, though we may want more flexibility.

“If employers want the benefit of the experience of older workers, they need to start planning how they will attract and retain them.”

In May, the CFFC revisited the issue of NZ’s ageing workforce in a survey of 500 companies, which confirmed there was widespread concern about the impact on business of the ageing workforce, yet a lag in the preparation of strategies or policies.

“The CFFC hears from thousands of New Zealanders who tell us they are seeking up-skilling and retraining, and want a level playing field to enable them keep working,” Ms Maxwell says.

“We need to be prepared, and that won’t happen without actively and intentionally addressing the issues facing our ageing workforce.”

The white paper is viewed as a springboard for future work, which will lead to better collaboration by Government and other agencies to support lifelong learning, as well as raising awareness around the potential benefits of employing and engaging with an ageing workforce.

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