What we know about older workers

The world of work is changing with much of the discussion being around the impact of technological change. The workforce is also undergoing some profound shifts. Did you know?

New Zealand

  • 40% of NZ’s workforce is aged 50 and over
  • In ten years’ time close to one in ten people in the NZ workforce will be over 65. Up from only 1.6 percent in 2000.
  • 45% of people aged 65-69 (235,000) are still in some form of employment. (Male 52% Female 38%)
  • There are more people aged 55-64 registered for Job Support than those aged 18 – 24.


  • The average duration of unemployment for mature aged people seeking work  is 75 weeks, compared with 48 weeks across all age groups
  • 13% of people 65 plus (17% for men and 10% for women) are still in some form of work, compared with 8% in 2006
  • Among employed people aged 55 and over  6.1% were underemployed
  • By 2060, 50% of men and 40% of women aged 64 or older will be employed.


What Older Workers Value

A report from the Institute for Employment Studies (UK) (2017) found that the factors that make work fulfilling for older workers are largely the same as they are for other ages.

“Older workers look for employment that is personally meaningful, flexible, intellectually stimulating, sociable, age-inclusive and offers any adjustments needed for health conditions and disabilities. Older workers are more likely to stay in work if they think that their work matters, their employer supports them and their needs are taken seriously.”

“There are very few differences between the preferences of older and young workers. However, there are a few factors that become more important with age. Health has the biggest effect on older workers’ decisions about continuing to work, more so than job satisfaction or job quality. Some older workers will therefore place greater value on flexibility at work, adjustments or part-time working hours to accommodate health needs or caring.”

What Makes For Fulfilling Work As We Age

Drawing on the above report the authors offer 11 suggestions

Work Content

  1. Older workers want meaningful work that is interesting, stretches them and makes full use of their skills and experience.
  2. Older workers are more likely to feel engaged and have higher levels of motivation if they feel their work is varied and worthwhile.
  3. Autonomy over how, when and what kind of tasks older workers do is very important because it signals their knowledge, experience and judgement is valued and respected.
  4. Older workers are more likely to want opportunities to work in teams, collaborate with colleagues or have a lot of contact with clients or members of the public.

Work Culture

  1. Older workers seek organisational cultures that are open, inclusive, where their voices are heard, and that prevent and tackle any discrimination and prejudice at all levels.
  2. Older workers want to be managed well as individuals, as well as in effective mixed-age teams.
  3. Older workers tend to seek out organisations whose vision, mission objectives and values align with their own.
  4. Older workers want to have open and fair access to career development including informal or vocational training and promotion opportunities. They want to learn and develop skills (including use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)) use existing skills in new ways, and share their knowledge and experience with others.

Workplace adjustments

  1. Ill health overrides all positive factors in shaping older workers’ decisions about staying in work, unless organisations make suitable adjustments.
  2. Organisations should make sure all workers have full and equal access to occupational health and wellbeing support and appropriate physical adjustments, equipment and flexible working arrangements, and all forms of adaptation are seen as normal by staff.
  3. Flexible working arrangements, reduced hours or ability to adjust the time and place of work are fundamental to making work more age-friendly.

To read the full report click here

Geoff Pearman, Managing Director, Partners in Change

Geoff Pearman is the Managing Director & Principal Consultant of Partners in Change, a Trans Tasman organisational & workforce development consultancy.

Geoff specialises in assisting organisations to strategically position themselves for the age-wave. He uses innovative approaches to assist organisations meet the challenge of boomers remaining in the workforce & to meet upcoming skills shortages. Geoff also offers consultancy & runs workshops in stakeholder engagement.

Email: geoff@partnersinchange.com.au 
Web: www.partnersinchange.co.nz