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Workers young and old are rethinking and reimagining work (Image: Getty)
Workers young and old are rethinking and reimagining work (Image: Getty)

The BulletinOctober 3, 2022

Work changing at both ends of the age spectrum

Workers young and old are rethinking and reimagining work (Image: Getty)
Workers young and old are rethinking and reimagining work (Image: Getty)

The number of self-employed people over 50 is outpacing the population norm while experts think young people could be poised to change the future of work in New Zealand, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.


Employers turning to younger and older workers

If we were to do an analysis of media stories at the end of the year, workforce or labour shortages would feature heavily. Speaking to Newstalk ZB last week, Infometrics economist Brad Olsen said employers were turning to younger and older workers to try and fill the gaps. Border closures and New Zealanders heading off for their OEs are undoubtedly causes of the current workforce shortage but of the changes still shaking out after the last two and half years, the reevaluation of work looks to be one that will last. And it’s happening at both ends of the age spectrum in New Zealand.

Growing number of older workers becoming entrepreneurs

When we think about entrepreneurs, we tend to think about younger people. A new study by Massey University has found that an increasing number of senior members of the workforce are becoming entrepreneurs. From March 2019 to September 2021, there was an increase of 9.7% in people over the age of 50 classified as self employed, with no employees. Total growth in the self-employed category for the under 50 age group for the same time period was 1.7%. The study’s authors are calling for more support to assist workers transition into self-employment. “While the ageing of the workforce is often conceptualised as a problem, there are in fact opportunities and benefits to all of society in maximising the participation of older New Zealanders in the workforce,” said Massey’s Fiona Alpass.

Organisations will need to rethink top-down management models

While the term “quiet quitting” might have done its dash, Massey University’s Zoë Port says younger workers wanted different things than previous generations. Mary O’Keeffe​ of business coaching firm Greaterthan,​ said employers may need to make fundamental shifts to the way they operate to make the most of the younger generation. That means rethinking traditional “top-down” models of management. I’ve popped a good long read at the bottom this morning about Generation Z and their willingness to contemplate more radical reform that is relevant to this discussion.

Council of Trade Unions wants comprehensive pilot of four-day work week

Beyond the current workforce shortage crisis, work and the future of it, is shaping up to be an election issue. The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has floated a series of ideas it says would improve worker and national wellbeing, tackle climate change, housing, work-life balance, and economic equity. It’s backing the idea of a comprehensive pilot of the four-day work week. The ideas are part of the CTU’s new economic development strategy called “Building a Better Future” and it will travel the country for the next six months consulting on it. “We reject a future in which we simply return to all the problems we had before – such as homelessness, inequality and economic insecurity,” said CTU economist Craig Renney.

Keep going!