Triple Jeopardy: Age, Work and the Invisibility of Mature Job-Seekers in New Zealand
Youth has for so long dominated our thinking about employment that political and policy responses and societal debate about the value of older workers has been stifled. Yet the urgency of population ageing in New Zealand at a time of projected labour shortages means older workers must urgently become a policy priority. Latest projections indicate that the population aged 65 years and over is expected to grow by about 100,000 during the current decade to reach 552,000 by 2011 . And by 2051 there are projected to be at least 60 percent more elderly than children (Statistics New Zealand, 2000). The threat of future labour shortages has been raised by numerous authors (Callister and Rose, 2001; Stephenson and Scobie, 2002; and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, 2002) with the older worker viewed implicitly as part of the problem. The paper reports on the largest contemporary study of mature job-seekers undertaken recently in New Zealand. It explores the job search efforts and behaviour of mature job seekers and the implications for policy intervention. The study also poignantly reveals the hidden personal and community costs of discrimination and unemployment amongst older people. The implications of framing employment as a youth concern only and the significance of disadvantaged older workers and job seekers is discussed. Finally the paper addresses the question of "what responsibility does society have towards skilled and unskilled older workers?"
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