Story: Workforce composition

Page 8. Age

All images & media in this story

Age of workers

Over the 20th century the proportion of older people in the workforce declined, but by the early 2000s this was reversing. In 1986, 2% of workers were 65 years or older. By 2006 this had risen to 4%.

Due to the ageing of the general population, there were more potential workers in older age groups. Many older people were healthier than in the past and therefore able to remain in paid work. However, the main reason this age group remained in the workforce longer was because the age people qualified for national superannuation had been progressively raised from 60 to 65 between 1992 and 2002.

In 1986, 11% of men and just 3% of women aged 65 and older were in paid work. By 2006 this had risen to 24% for men and 11% for women. Among older workers the highest employment rates were in the 65–69 age group, with 41% of men and 24% of women employed in 2006. By 85 years and older this declined to 6% for men and 3% for women.

An ageing workforce

The larger proportion of older people in the paid workforce meant that 37% of workers were under 30 years of age in 1986, but only 25% by 2006. Also, in the early 2000s a smaller proportion of young people entered the workforce immediately after leaving school, as more carried on to tertiary education.

These trends had the effect of raising the overall age of the workforce. In 1996 half the workforce was older than 37. By 2051 half the workforce is expected to be older than 42.

How to cite this page:

Paul Callister and Robert Didham, 'Workforce composition - Age', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Paul Callister and Robert Didham, published 11 Mar 2010