Fivefold rise in pensioners working

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Loving it . . . Grant Vickers, of Waikouaiti, enjoys the benefits of work. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The number of Dunedin pensioners in paid employment increased almost fivefold between 2001 and 2018, the latest data shows.

Stats NZ data reveals the number of people aged 65 or older in paid employment in Dunedin had increased from 733 in 2001 to 3438 in 2018.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said several factors had driven the spike.

“With longer life expectancy and better health, a lot of people want to contribute for longer,” Mr McGowan said.

Also, some older people struggled financially, so staying in the workhouse was “almost a requirement”.

Age Concern Otago executive officer Debbie George said people working longer because of better overall health was “positive”.

People being able to work beyond the age of 65 was “a great thing” because it indicated employers were not prejudiced against older people, Ms George said.

“It shows they are not ageist.”

Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin said New Zealand had one of the highest rates of employment of people aged 65 and older.

People might choose to work because they enjoyed it, the social aspect, or because their employers encouraged them to continue to work due to skill shortages, or for financial reasons.

“The key thing we need to adjust to is helping people stay in the workforce on their terms,” Ms Martin said.

“For the most part that means being more flexible about working hours and some of the tasks that may be part of a job.

She got “very disappointed” by people continuing to refer to the “retirement age”.

“It has been unlawful since February 1, 1999, to discriminate on the grounds of age in employment against people aged 16 years and older.

“Reaching the age of 65 doesn’t mean that people have to retire, but it does mean, subject to meeting residency requirements, that a person is entitled to NZ Super.”

NZ Super provided a universal basic income for over-65s.

“On its own it is not a large amount, so it makes sense for those people who want to to keep working.”

A lot of skills and experience would be lost if people were all to stop work at 65, she said.

“We need both young and older people in the workforce.”

People working longer did not increase youth unemployment.

“They are generally not competing for the same jobs.

“Young people are at the start of their working lives and are trying to get a job to gain experience.

“Older workers have both skills and experience.”

Ex-retiree enjoying return to work

Older people staying in the workforce longer has benefits for the employee and employer, a Dunedin pensioner says.

Grant Vickers (69) said he retired as a New Zealand sales manager for a robotic milking company, aged 67.

“I was burnt out and I was looking forward to retirement.”

But after six months of retired life, he discovered he was not suited to the lifestyle.

Then “out of the blue” livestock identification company Allflex offered him a job.

When he declined the initial offer, Allflex asked him what he would like the job to look like, such as work hours.

“I responded and they came back with a contract and I’m absolutely loving it.”

When people got older it was important for them to look after their mental health, he said.

“You’ve go to get out and get among people and do stuff. You’ve got to be stimulated you need to have a bit of adrenaline and a bit of pressure, so I’m happy to be back at work.

“The money is good but it’s not about the money about keeping your mind active.”

When asked if he was taking the job of a young person, he said he wasn’t.

“In the job I had and the job I’m in now, there’s an advantage of having some maturity.”

His “lifetime of experience” working with farmers allowed him to get to the point quicker than a younger person could, he said.

Maturity made it easier to ask a client “hard questions”, such as if they could afford the technology he was selling.

“If I was 25 probably say . I’m not going to talk to you about that.”