Research to support and help future-proof the ageing workforce
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has awarded the team behind Maximising Workforce Participation for Older New Zealanders the Endeavour Fund’s highest rating of Gold Status for their research.
Programme co-lead Professor Fiona Alpass (Health and Ageing Research Team, Massey University) said the team were focused on ways to address what she called New Zealand’s “wicked problem” of an ageing population.
As the population of older people in New Zealand grows, the proportion of younger workers is decreasing quite rapidly. For example, the average age in professions such as doctors and nurses is ageing quite significantly. In many occupations there doesn't seem to be a lot of preparation for the demographic changes that are coming.
“There is a need for more older people to remain in the workforce and we wanted to ask what can the government do, what can employers do, and what can workers do to maximise older workers ongoing participation in the workforce,” said Professor Alpass.
The project’s aim was to provide evidence to assist the development of policy and resources for workers and employers that will reduce the barriers to older workers entering and remaining in the workforce.
Research focused on four key areas, including the survey-based Health, Work and Retirement Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods looking at reconciling the competing roles of older people working and providing care (ie caring for older parents or partners, or older disabled children).
There was also a focus on older entrepreneurs who had started a business after age 50, and case studies of employers, including two Māori and one Pasifika based organisation.
She said this research would not have been able to go ahead without the support of the Endeavour Fund.
“It was a big project, and we needed expertise from different researchers and stakeholders. We wouldn’t have been able to pursue such a large-scale piece of work across various research aims.
The funding was extremely important, the research just wouldn’t have been undertaken otherwise,” said Professor Alpass.
One of the highlights of the research is the senior entrepreneur project, which informs the Office for Seniors and the Ministry of Social Development Senior Enterprise Project, a pilot of 5 programmes across the country to help support older people wanting to start a business.
There is a real imbalance in the support offered to senior entrepreneurs across the country. There are some good examples of age-friendly support, but others where people have said they haven't felt the support was tailored for them at their life stage and that it was really targeted at the stereotype of a young, tech entrepreneur, in their 20s.