Monday, March 26, 2012

New Zealand: Preview of Study Challenging Perception of Older Workers as Less Productive

Although New Zealand's Equal Employment Opportunities Trust report on "Older Workers: Challenging Myths and Managing Realities" is not due out until mid-2012, a preview has been published about the research finding that there is no direct relationship between older age and productivity--but productivity could be worsened by age discrimination. According to the Sunday Star-Times, the report suggests that older workers are seen as less productive, less able and less worth the expense of upskilling--and that younger bosses in particular might benefit from "age management" training.

The article quotes EEO researcher Dr Mervyl McPherson:
"There is more difference between individuals within the same age group than there is between age groups in productivity, health, ability to learn," she said.

"Keeping older workers [employed] means they are still working and paying tax, and that offsets some of the demands that the babyboomers are going to be making in terms of welfare and superannuation and health."
While more detailed recommendations will be included in the final report, McPherson mentioned better working flexibility and more upskilling of older workers, along with wider options for "bridge employment"--options that allow people nearing retirement to move into less responsible, part-time or project-based roles. According to her, an employer was frequently more likely to get another five or ten years' service from someone who re-trained at 55 or 60 than from a younger person who then quickly moved on.
Low-skilled workers at each end of the age spectrum suffered in downturns--and McPherson said that was an issue for older workers coming out of industries where their skills were defunct, such as manufacturing.

"They are the ones most in need of work because they are on low incomes and so they are probably less prepared for retirement. But they haven't got the skills for the current economy," said McPherson.

The report suggested they might face discrimination when it came to who was chosen for retraining--or consider themselves not worth the expense.
Source: "Making the most of older workers" (March 26, 2012)

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