Age at work – The need to plan

New Zealand businesses will increasingly depend on an older workforce and need to plan for that, according to report released at last month’s Age Advantage Forum in Christchurch.
“Our success or failure in maximising the potential of older workers will have national economic impact,” says Judith Davey, associate professor of social policy and director of the NZ Institute for Research on Aging at Victoria University, who co-authored the report with research associate, Justine Cornwall.
She says the impact will hit individual businesses and employers “need to be prepared for the effects of population aging on their workforce and on their customer base”.
“This means appreciating the benefits of mixed age workforce and building on the strengths of young and older workers where experience and creativity, stability and technical competence are all valued.”
Davey says labour and skills shortages are already emerging, and, if nothing changes, such shortages will increase as the baby boom generation enters retirement and the numbers of new workforce entrants reduces.
“The challenge is to match the capacities of older workers with opportunities for them to be economically active. This will be to their own benefit and to that of society and the economy as whole.”
Older worker education features prominently in the report, which is entitled ‘Maximising the Potential of Older Workers’. Davey says older workers need good access to upskilling opportunities to counteract the stereotype that older workers can’t learn new things.
“Education and training among older workers can help counter the ‘creep of credentialism’, where more and higher qualifications are needed to acquire and retain jobs.”
Other possible solutions to maximising the input from older workers include flexible working hours and phased retirement options.
“Retirement in the old sense may be on its way out. There are benefits for employers who can draw on older workers as need arises and do not entirely lose their experience and knowledge, plus their ability to mentor younger workers,” says Davey.
“Employers and employees could benefit by discussing retirement options and planning ahead for these transitions.”
The report was launched by Senior Citizens Minister Ruth Dyson at the forum run by Canterbury Development Corporation and the Third Age Foundation.

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