Sunday News

RE­TIREES TO THE RES­CUE

El­derly work­ers are in­creas­ingly opt­ing to re­tire later, with im­pli­ca­tions for their em­ploy­ers. Julie Iles re­ports.

- Ageism · Aging · Retirement · Discrimination · Human Rights · Society · Employment · Fletcher Building · University of Auckland · Auckland Region · University of Otago · Otago · Statistics New Zealand · New Zealand · Greymouth

WITH more New Zealan­ders work­ing into their re­tire­ment and an age­ing pop­u­la­tion, com­pa­nies need to fig­ure out how they can keep their older work­ers happy, or risk bear­ing the brunt of an on­com­ing skills short­age.

At 76, Tom Druskovich is Fletcher Build­ing Group’s long­est-serv­ing em­ployee and works five days a week at a Fletcher-owned Di­mond store, a steel roof­ing and cladding dis­trib­u­tor in One­hunga.

‘‘It keeps me oc­cu­pied, busy, up,’’ he says. ‘‘Like most Auck­lan­ders, I’m only on a tiny sec­tion at home so I’d have to go wan­der­ing the streets if I didn’t work be­cause there’s not much to do around home.’’

Druskovich said he never imag­ined his first job at Fletcher Build­ing Group – work­ing at their tim­ber com­pany for 36 cents an hour – would lead to a ca­reer with the com­pany.

But 60 years later Druskovich has no plans to re­tire. ‘‘My cri­te­ria is this: I’ll carry on work­ing as long as I’m happy to come to work and my health stays good.’’

Grow­ing num­bers of su­per­an­nu­i­tants are work­ing in su­per­mar­kets, driv­ing buses or stay­ing longer in the con­struc­tion and agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

At Count­down, where the old­est em­ployee is 83, 1600 of its 18,000 staff are over the age of 60.

Gen­eral man­ager of peo­ple and cul­ture Lau­ren Voyce said older work­ers of­fered a lot of value through their ‘‘in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge’’.

‘‘By 2050 there’s pre­dicted to be 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple over the age of 65, so while many com­pa­nies are fo­cused on mil­len­ni­als I think it’s im­por­tant to think be­yond that.’’

The growth in el­derly work­ers has been a sur­prise. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Busi­ness, Em­ploy­ment and In­no­va­tion, 22 per cent of re­tire­ment-age peo­ple were work­ing in 2016, com­pared to only 12 per cent 10 years ear­lier – an 87 per cent in­crease.

This fig­ure has con­tin­ued to rise, with 24.4 per cent of those over 65 work­ing in De­cem­ber 2017, Sta­tis­tics New Zealand data shows.

Older peo­ple are also earn­ing less as they age. Auck­land Univer­sity se­nior lec­turer Michael Fletcher said re­search he did in 2015 at the Work Re­search In­sti­tute found that as work­ers got older, they were more likely to earn lower wages.

About 30 per cent of work­ers over 60 were paid less than twothirds of New Zealand’s me­dian wage, the same as those between 25 and 29 years old.

‘‘Ei­ther this is be­cause work­ers that had low pay­ing jobs their whole lives have to con­tinue work­ing to get sav­ings, or there are more work­ers choos­ing more flex­i­ble sched­ules,’’ Fletcher said.

More also needs to be done to keep older work­ers safe at work, re­search has shown.

A re­cent study, con­ducted by a team of re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Otago, also found older work­ers rep­re­sented a

‘‘sig­nif­i­cant bur­den’’ on Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (ACC) and that between 2009 and 2013, more than one in five ac­cepted ACC claims for trau­matic work in­juries were made by work­ers aged 55 to 79 years old.

Com­pa­nies are quickly re­al­is­ing that as the num­ber of New Zealand work­ers ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment age rises, they need be pre­pared.

Fol­low­ing a de­mo­graphic re­port in 2013, en­ergy re­tailer Vec­tor re­alised al­most a quar­ter of their em­ploy­ees were over 55.

Di­ver­sity Works chief ex­ec­u­tive Bev Cassidy-Macken­zie said many com­pa­nies had cre­ated job shar­ing and men­tor­ing midtier man­age­ment po­si­tions for those over 55.

‘‘Be­lieve it or not, in this day and age still, man­agers see ag­ing work­ers with a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence as a threat to their ca­reer pro­gres­sion. But that’s not ac­tu­ally the case.

‘‘Ag­ing work­ers have al­ready had their ca­reer and they’re just re­ally happy to be in­volved and pass down their in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge.’’

Some or­gan­i­sa­tions saw no point in pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment for older staff, but this was a mis­take. ‘‘Older work­ers have em­pha­sised in our re­search that they want to be trained on the job.’’

Count­down’s old­est em­ployee, An­gela Tvrdeic says she is ‘‘83 years young’’.

She has worked in the su­per­mar­ket chain’s Grey­mouth shop for 30 years and while she knows she can’t stay for­ever, she is sure she will ‘‘go for a lit­tle longer’’ at the reg­is­ter.

‘‘A lot of my friends were count­ing down to 65 and couldn’t wait to go, but I don’t see why you’d have to go, as long as you’re healthy.’’

In fact, Tvrdeic says she is sure that work­ing into re­tire­ment has kept her sharper and health­ier.

‘‘I had been up to a hos­pi­tal the other day just for a bit of a check and the nurse could not be­lieve that I was 83.’’

While the fin­ish line on Tvrdeic’s ca­reer still seems out of sight, she says the only thing she would be do­ing more of in re­tire­ment is spend­ing more time with her grand­kids.

‘‘But work­ing part-time gives me a chance to do a fair bit of that any­how.’’

A lot of my friends were count­ing down to 65 and couldn’t wait to go, but I don’t see why you’d have to go, as long as you’re healthy.’ AN­GELA TVRDEIC While many com­pa­nies are fo­cused on mil­len­ni­als, I think it’s im­por­tant to think be­yond that. COUNT­DOWN’S GEN­ERAL MAN­AGER OF PEO­PLE AND CUL­TURE, LAU­REN VOYCE

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