Older People are working longer – where, what and how?

Judith A. Davey 8/09/17

In a previous blog I talked about how the population may change in future, looking at Statistics New Zealand projections. One important trend is the increased participation of people aged 65 and over in the paid labour force. In 2015 I published quite a few blogs on this as I was then involved in a project called Making Active Ageing a Reality.[1] But these did not present information on the industries which older people are working in, their occupational categories or hours of work.

I won’t go over general trends again, but look at industry and occupation data for people 65 plus and full-time/part-time participation from census data.

Industry categories

Older workers, 65 plus, are spread over a wide range of industries, few of them reaching 10% of the total. The largest grouping is in agriculture, forestry and fishing – 14%. This is nothing new and mainly reflects the fact that farmers, most of whom are self-employed, tend to “stay on”.  They can regulate their own working hours and bring in labour for tasks which they cannot or do not want to continue doing themselves. There has never been compulsory retirement in the farming sector.

The next highest category is health care and social assistance – 11% of workers 65 plus. This includes doctors, nurses and allied health workers, as well as paid carers and support workers. This is significant given the importance of these groups for the ongoing health and wellbeing of our population. If these workers are ageing there may be shortages of skills when they leave the workforce. According to a Health Workforce New Zealand report,[2] 40% of doctors and 45% of nurses in this country are aged 50 or over. And 54% of the “non-regulated” health workforce – care and support workers – is in the 45 to 64 age group.

A number of further industry categories account for about 6% each of the 65 plus workforce – education and training; retail trade; manufacturing; professional, scientific, and technical services.

Occupation Categories

Older workers are also found in all occupations, mostly in skilled categories. They are clustered in the following table.

Workers 65 plus Number %
     Managers and executives 25044 22.1
     Professionals, including health and education 22896 20.2
     Clerical and admin workers 12180 10.7
     Machine, stores, drivers 11385 10.0
     Labourers and factory workers 11199 9.9
     Skilled technicians and trades 10854 9.6
     Care and service workers 10731 9.5
     Sales workers 9030 8.0

Source: 2013 Census of Population

The largest categories tend to be managers and professionals, likely to have qualifications and to work in an office environment. These are the “choosers” – see later.

 Full-time and part-time work

The image of older workers tends to be that they will work part-time. This is not totally borne out by the figures. While women are more likely to work part-time than men, there have been some interesting movements in patterns of work over the last three censuses (see table). For both men and women there have been increases in the proportions working full-time. This increase was especially marked in the 2006-2013 period. The proportion working part-time has correspondingly dropped for both men and women.

Full-time and Part-time percentages – Workers aged 65 plus, by sex

Groups % 2001 Census 2006 Census 2013 Census
Full-time Male 54 57 62
Female 32 34 40
Part-time Male 46 43 38
Female 68 66 60

As might be expected, the proportion of full-time older workers decreases with age to only 9% for women at 85 plus. But it may surprise some that one in four men who are working at the age of 85 plus are working full-time, probably farmers again.

Percent of total employed working full-time, by age and sex, 2013 Census
65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84 85 plus
Female 48 33 20 14 9
Male 72 54 38 30 25

The characteristics of people who are working after the age of 65 in New Zealand reflect categories which were suggested by the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) in the UK.[3]

Choosers – this group is the most amenable to staying on in work. Most are managers or professionals, predominantly male, with high incomes. They often have choices whether to work or not, may do so mainly out of interest and can often stipulate their working conditions.

Survivors – who are motivated strongly by the need for an income. This group typically have few or no qualifications and are in routine and semi-routine jobs. They have little control over their working lives or leverage with employers. If they continue to work it may be in a lower paid and possibly insecure job.

Jugglers – “jugglers” are balancing domestic and caring roles (responsibilities to older parents/relatives and caring for grandchildren) with paid work. Almost all of them are women.  They are likely to work in intermediate occupations and to work part-time.

[1] Davey, J. (2014) “Paid Employment.” In Koopman-Boyden, P., Cameron, M., Davey, J. and

Richardson, M., Making Active Ageing a Reality: Maximising participation and contribution

by older people. Report to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. National

Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, University of Waikato, Hamilton.

[2] Health of the Health Workforce 2015, Wellington, Ministry of Health 2016

[3] McNair, S., Flynn, M., Owen, L., Humphreys, C. and Woodfield, S. (2004) Changing Work in Later Life: A study of job transitions. CROW, University of Surrey.

About Age Concern New Zealand 'on research'

At the heart of everything Age Concern does is a passion to see older people experience well-being, respect, dignity, and to be included and valued. We support, inform and advise older people on issues such as access to health care, transport, housing, financial entitlements, and social opportunities. We also work to combat real problems in our society, like elder abuse and neglect, chronic loneliness and social isolation. We provide specialist services with trained and qualified professionals able to give expert advice and assistance. Age Concern is a charity and relies on the support of volunteers and public donations to do much of the work we do. To help us help older people, please consider making a donation of your time or money. To see how, visit www.ageconcern.org.nz
This entry was posted in Paid and unpaid work (includes volunteering). Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Older People are working longer – where, what and how?

  1. mp3evans says:

    I hope you have a conversation with Geoff Pearman who is a significant voice in new thinking and activism around work and ageing …. the old paradigms don’t serve us and they certainly don’t inspire us anymore!


  2. Gill Lawrence says:

    I like the naming of the different categories; and a good summary of them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s