Work until you die…if they’ll let you

It has been described as a tidal wave of demographic change and a looming war over a shrinking pool of talent. But no matter how you put it, the statistical fact remains the same: New Zealand’s workforce is aging.

After years of reports and discussions about the changing age profile of the country’s workers, the implications are now beginning to hit home.

The change in the number of people still working past conventional retirement age has reached record levels. A year ago, at 22.2 percent, New Zealand hit the highest ever rate of employment among those aged 65 years and over, and there’s no sign of a let up. Only 30 years ago, the rate was about 9 percent.

And like Auckland’s infrastructure, no political party will deal with this issue because, when it is finally critical, they’ll be resting on their directorship, OBEs or cemetery plots.  The solution is that people keep working longer, but who wants to be served by a 65-year-old at McDonalds?

According to the most recent PwC Golden Age Index, New Zealand has the second highest rate of engagement of those aged over 55 in the OECD, topped only by Iceland. Many in their 60s, who in the past would have received a golden handshake and retired to a life focused on family and hobbies, now want to remain engaged, connected and active. They consider themselves willing and able to do well in the workplace.

But organisations need to recognise they benefit from experienced staff and they can’t afford to have huge chunks of their workforces walk out the door when they hit 65.

Massey University’s, Professor Tim Bentley, who was one of the co-authors of AUT’s Aging Work Force study, warns businesses who think people in their 60s are no longer of any use that they are out of date. He says the change in the age profile of workers means there could be a looming shortage of skills and a fierce battle for talent approaching.

What has your experience been, as workers over fifty? Once you drop out of the work force, is there a dignified way back in?




THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • sonovaMin

    In my mid fifties I was still in hot demand and working flat out often 7 days a week
    I still could be doing it now even though I’m in my mid sixties. I have learn’t to say no and do a maximum of 40 hours.

    • Effluent

      There wouldn’t be an impending problem if the majority of NZ’s current working age population thought the same way, but there are of course too many who have made inadequate provision. Excluding those who, for one reason or another, could not have done so, there are too many who will of course come running to those who have, to bail them out.

  • Cadwallader

    The fear of the repercussions is what keeps me in the work-force, albeit for diminishing returns. But, when you’re working your not reliant on pre-retirement investments so you don’t feel like you’re going backwards. The usual hours of work provide a structure which I think keeps the mind disciplined and productive.

  • cod

    Semi retired in late forties, I just found I was working all the time and never had any time to enjoy it. Now the is at least the illusion of freedom.

  • Totara

    New Zealanders under the age of 60 are going to be in for a rude awakening if they plan to be in any way reliant on government superannuation until they reach their age of life expectancy.

    The current system is a pyramid scheme, that can only work so long as more people continue to pay into it than draw out of it. Once the wobbling begins, it will crash hard.

    Once a populist politician realises that there are more votes to be had than lost by offering relief to working-age people through lowering their tax burden whilst simultaneously scrapping superannuation, it will be game over. Which will be a shame because we will still need a safety net.

    Oh, and those funds that people have in KiwiSaver. Expect some rule changes to occur, such as raising the age to collect them to 67 at first, then 70, then 75. And perhaps even having the funds be absorbed into the general government fund — as has happened already in Poland, Hungary, and other countries. That honey pot will be just too irresistible for future politicians to keep their sticky fingers out of.

    • Cadwallader

      JK’s most vivid failing is his refusal to increase the age of eligibility for National Super to at least 68. The reality is that despite the recent clamour regarding the baby-boomers all hitting retirement age, anyone with half a brain began salting away for the future 30+ years ago. There is no need for a specific compulsory scheme. If you want to do it, you’ll do it.
      The OZ regime has been touted as a success but since its inception there’s been no appreciable increase in retirement savings. What has happened is that a wider range of people are saving than were previously, but some who already did so have reduced their investments.

  • Steve (North Shore)

    I have 71 weeks until retirement age, and that will soon be days. But I won’t retire, I will just reduce hours so the Govt is paying me to go fishing. I like work and will continue unless I get unwell. The Company needs to survive without me one day.
    The younger Taxpayers will pay me to go fishing – I have provided for them for the last 52 years

    • YOU have not provided me or my children a thing. Nothing!

      • Steve (North Shore)

        I knew I should have gone on the dole when I left school

    • Totara

      Many people believe that they deserve to be paid their superannuation, because they have paid into superannuation throughout their working lives.

      But is that really true?

      Let’s imagine that you are the ‘average’ worker/taxpayer –> pensioner. For your life to be self-sufficient (i.e. sustainable), you would have:
      1. Required education for the first 20 years;
      2. Spent 45 years employed, during which time you would have paid your taxes (as well as raised 2 children, bought a house etc)
      3. Spent 20 years living off what you contributed into that fraction of tax that accounts for superannuation that you paid over 45 tears.
      4. And for the last 10 of those years, required lots and lots of expensive medical care.

      Somebody else can calculate the exact tax level that would be required to make the ‘average’ person self-sufficient. But it works out much higher than even the highest tax rates under Muldoon.

      In short, what I am saying is that the younger generation don’t owe you your future superannuation. And you haven’t actually paid enough over your working life to cover your own superannuation (+ hospitals + schools + government).

      What you have done is been the participant in a pyramid scheme. You (and lots of your age-group) have paid for the retirement lifestyle of a smaller number of the previous generation. You have already relieved your reward (which was to live in a society where this could happen). There are no guarantees that the next generation will do the same for you.

      • Steve (North Shore)

        Yep I should have gone on the dole in 1967

  • I am under no illusion that I will do anything other than work to the day I die.

    An unfair tax regime and a brutal divorce have seen to that.

    At one time in my life I was being taxed at 66cents on the dollar in a job where I swung a shovel, drove heavy dangerous machinery and was seriously injured twice, all because I worked hard and did long hours.
    More than 30 years later little has changed as those that work hard and are productive are taxed to death to support those that refuse to.

    WFF and interest free student loans, a benefit system that encourages wastrels to breed to avoid work and a high tax ceiling set at a ridiculously low level designed to punish even the lowliest of wage slaves if they work hard enough have contributed to this.

    Meanwhile those that earn excessive incomes, use trusts, property and sharp accounting to pay virtually nothing yet claim the largess above of WFF and IFSL continue to prosper and retire aged 50 to suck the life out of the rest of us.

    Yep. That’s what I expect. And for those that are bludging off the sweat of my brow I hope you are proud of yourselves.

  • kayaker

    Early 60s. Re-structure saw my management role redundant officially last Friday the 13th ? I see no reason why I won’t be employed again. However, I’m thinking of reinventing myself – a portfolio career, or something portable and Internet-based as I’m totally over the ever lowering standards in the corporate world. We’re thinking of quitting Auckland for the winterless north, or moving to Phuket for six months of the year. Mr K has a thriving travel business that is fun, will sustain us, and can be done from anywhere. Us babyboomers will never, ever quit!