Thinking of working a bit longer?

laptop on beach1Thinking of working a bit longer?  For some nearing retirement, continuing in the workforce may be an undesirable financial necessity, while for others the thought of not working fills them with dread!

There is evidence that older workers are happier than their younger counterparts.  Older workers generally report being more satisfied, committed and motivated than younger workers, and they tend to see the work environment as less stressful.  ICC results show that most of those aged 60 to 79 were still working (72%), even though nearly three-quarters were also receiving superannuation, suggesting many older workers in New Zealand seek continued paid employment beyond the obvious financial benefits.

However, health is a major influence on the choices people make regarding their continued participation in the workforce, and poor health has been identified as the main reason why people retire earlier than anticipated.  Some of our participants were unable to work due to a health or disability issue. Our earlier research indicates that approximately 17% of 55 – 70 year-olds retire due to poor health, while others are also retiring to protect their health for their future retirement.

We know that approximately 30% of retirees find the transition to retirement stressful, and this is particularly so for those with fewer financial resources or for those who are unable to retire when and how they want to. We asked ICC participants about their work preferences. Many expressed dissatisfaction with their current work status.  For instance, many full time workers would prefer to be work part-time or to have more flexible work schedules.  Nearly a quarter said they wanted to be fully retired yet only 16% were, suggesting that a number of our participants continue to work in spite of their preference to be retired.

A small percentage of those surveyed aged over 60 were unemployed and looking for work.  There is considerable evidence that negative stereotypes about older workers and their health and productivity are still often held by employers.  These stereotypes can prove resistant and makes seeking employment for older New Zealanders a stressful and often futile activity.

These preliminary findings pose a number of questions for discussion:

Are some of us continuing in paid employment because of a financial need of some sort?

Or are we deriving other non-financial benefits from continued work involvement?

Is there more that can be done at an organisational and policy level to extend the working lives of older workers experiencing ill health or disability if they desire to continue in the workforce?

What are the barriers to finding employment past 60 years of age and what can be done to overcome negative stereotypes that persist about older workers?