A new white paper on the ageing workforce published by the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) signals that an ageing population, a declining birth rate and a deepening skills shortage suggests New Zealand needs to think carefully how it manages its ageing workforce.

The white paper, called Act Now Age Later, was launched by the Minister for Seniors, Hon Tracey Martin, and called for a National Strategy on the Ageing Workforce and the development of a toolkit for employers and workers. The report was the result of a working group made up of government departments and agencies, including the CFFC, the Council of Trade Unions, recruitment companies and the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

The white paper outlined three key recommendations for consideration:

  1. A national strategy on the ageing workforce to ensure Government agencies work collaboratively on key policies.
  2. Establishment of a Government-led taskforce, or similar, responsible for designing key outcomes and co-ordination of key stakeholders in an independent manner.
  3. Development of an ageing workforce tool-kit for both employers and workers to ensure their future needs are met.

EMA chief executive Kim Campbell says ageing populationsPage Content will change the way our economies and societies work.

“And it’s vital New Zealand as a whole addresses this dynamic head-on, so that we have an aligned approach for managing this predictable phenomena.

“There are many dimensions to an ageing population, however by focusing on the workforce we are able to weave together the strands of government, employers and workers,” says Mr Campbell.

The EMA suggests that the impact of an ageing workforce on some sectors in New Zealand is starting to bite. For example, with almost 24% of New Zealand’s workforce aged 55-plus years there are only four to five teachers/nurses to replace every 10 that will retire. Similarly, a 2016 workforce survey by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners found 44% of all GPs plan to retire within 10 years (up from 36% two years prior).

In the most recent EMA Employers Survey most employers (83%) have no plans to address the challenge this demographic change will present.

“We need to find a way to unlock the potential of older workers and explore how public and private employers are preparing for an increasingly older workforce.

“The ageing workforce presents opportunities for government, for employers and for workers. We argue that the ageing workforce is an untapped resource which is often overlooked and underinvested in,” says Campbell.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) valued being part of the group that released the white paper.

Maxwell said New Zealand’s ageing workforce was 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,” said Maxwell.

“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.”

The white paper will enable the CFFC to progress its important work on the ageing workforce, one of the subject areas of its 2016 Review of Retirement Income Policy. In May this year, the CFFC revisited the issue 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.

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