More older workers in New Zealand compared to Australia: study

WHEN IT comes to keeping older employees in the workforce, our friends over the ditch are doing a much better job.

In New Zealand 25 per cent more seniors aged 55 to 64 have a job than their Australian counterparts.

Just under 80 per cent of older New Zealand workers are employed, while in Australia its just 64 per cent.

Now a leading workplace expert at Perth's Edith Cowan University is calling for organisations to do more - such as introducing flexible working arrangements and mentoring programs between younger and mature employees - to retain older workers.

Professor Stephen Teo

Professor Stephen Teo

ECU's School of Business and Law Professor Stephen Teo said Australians don't place the same value on diversity and there's a lot we can learn from our Kiwi cousins.

"Organisations must do more to support, engage and retain older workers as our populations' age - both here and in New Zealand," he said.

Professor Teo said as well as flexible working arrangements and mentoring programs other fixes for firms wanting to retain older workers include training for managers and recruitment staff in recognising age bias.

He said senior management should also champion positive attitudes towards older workers.

A new research paper co-authored by Professor Teo surveyed 1238 workers in New Zealand aged 55 years and older about the factors that influenced their likelihood to remain working with their organisation.

"Our research found workers who feel supported by their workplace and not discriminated against are far more likely to remain with their employer," he said.

"This seems fairly obvious but in practice there's plenty of evidence that firms aren't doing this very well.

"Many managers are not supportive of new ways of thinking, such as flexible work hours, and have outdated views on the value of older workers to their organisation.

"Our research showed half of workers surveyed had been with their current employer for more than 11 years and a small percentage (3.9 per cent) for more than 40 years.

That's a huge amount of corporate knowledge that could be lost.

Professor Tim Bentley, from Massey University in New Zealand's Palmerston Norht, was lead author on the research and said there was a negligible cost to implementing policies supporting older workers.

"Workplace flexibility and appropriate recognition and respect for older workers doesn't cost a thing," he said.

"They're just good practice for organisations wanting to engage and retain workers of any age."

Professor Bentley said New Zealand and Australia are culturally very similar despite the difference in older workers staying in their jobs.

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This story What Aussies can learn from NZ's older workforce first appeared on The Senior.