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Workforce 2020

Demographic Shift

New Zealands population is becoming older and more diverse. This changing demography is one of the major forces for change that is being explored through Workforce 2020.

Demographic change will affect everyone, and the ageing of the baby boomer bulge?in particular will have a growing influence on both the size and composition of New Zealands workforce.

Greater Diversity

Report: The Asian workforce: A critical part of New Zealand’s current and future labour market


Significant changes in the composition of New Zealand’s population over the last two decades have resulted in a greater ethnic diversity in New Zealand, especially in our workforce.  These changes have several labour market implications such as changing attitudes, values and approach to work.  This report contributes to existing labour-related analysis of the diverse Asian workforce in New Zealand.   It provides a 2006 baseline (using Census data) from which to monitor future trends in the employment and labour market outcomes of the Asian workforce.

The 2006 Census showed that Asians comprised the fourth largest major group of ethnicities in New Zealand after European, Māori and Other, comprising 9.2 percent of our population. This proportion is expected to increase to approximately 15 percent by 2026.  There is a high level of diversity within the Asian ethnic groups. Asians in New Zealand differ widely in areas such as language, culture and settlement history. All of these factors can impact on labour market outcomes.

A growing proportion of our future labour supply will be Asian and currently, there is a dearth of detailed information about the Asian workforce, and the distinctive parts of the labour market that they occupy.  Therefore as it is important to understand and improve the performance of New Zealand’s labour market, the information gained from this analysis will be useful when preparing employers and consumers for a more ethnically diverse workforce in the future.

Link to full report

HTML | PDF [51 pages, 518 kB]

Older Workers

Four reports on the Job Mobility and Employability of Older Workers

The proportion of New Zealands labour force aged 55 years and over is likely to grow from about one in six in 2007 to around one in four by 2020. While labour force growth has been a prime driver of prosperity ?the labour force grew by 500,000 between 1991 and 2006 ?population ageing will result in a dramatic slowdown in growth. The labour force is forecast to grow by only 15,000 per year after 2016, less than half the recent rate.

At the same time, the proportion of older workers compared to younger ones will dramatically increase. This phenomenon will be more prevalent in some sectors and industries than others, and will pose extra challenges in terms of maintaining and utilising the skills of an expanding and increasingly diverse group of older people in the workforce.

Workforce 2020 has produced four reports that focus on issues affecting the productive employment and job mobility of older New Zealanders (aged 55 years and over). They are designed to promote discussion of the challenges and opportunities for older workers in a changing labour market.


Older workers (aged 55+) have a number of unique features - such as more specialized skills and knowledge - that make them productive and valued in their current jobs, but that may hinder their job mobility.

These features mean older workers may face more difficulty switching their skills into new work areas, and could put them more at risk of becoming long-term unemployed or leaving the job market altogether if they lose their jobs.

Whilst older workers have experienced favourable labour market conditions over the past few years, the current downturn presents challenges for them.

There is a risk that a period of increased job losses may disadvantage older workers if some of their unique labour market features lead to poor job matching or early retirement.

The synthesis report describes these issues and identifies areas for further discussion, such as ways to improve information flows about older workers?skills and adapting employment, job training and advisory services for an ageing workforce. Three technical papers describe and explain these issues in more detail.

Link to full report

Too old for the job? No Way!

Getting the best from older workers requires consideration of their needs, aspirations and expectations. Workforce 2020 has produced an information flyer aimed at employers, human resource recruiters and careers agencies outlining the increasingly important and valuable part older workers will play in our workforce. It sets out some of the gains older workers bring to the workforce, and the key aspects employers could consider to provide safe, healthy and stimulating work environments for older workers.

Link to flyer:

For more information on the ageing workforce in New Zealand and internationally, check these websites:

or email for further information at info@mbie.govt.nz.

Other areas of research on older workers and employment:

Aged Care

Report: The future demand for paid caregivers in a rapidly ageing society?


We are living in a rapidly ageing society. This is due to a decline in the fertility rate and increases in life expectancy. Over the next 30 years, the proportion of older people aged 65 years and over in New Zealand is projected to double, with the largest percentage growth occurring in the 85 years and over group. As the incidence of disability increases with age, so does the need for care. As a result, the number of older disabled persons needing high levels of care is projected to treble over the next three decades. Therefore the number of paid caregivers needs to almost treble over the next 30 years from the current 17,900 to 48,200 in 2036 in order to meet the likely future demand for care.

This report examines the demographic profile of the current caregiver workforce in New Zealand and projects the future demand for paid caregivers. The research also demonstrates that caregivers are overrepresented in the 40 years and over age groups. This means that the caregiver workforce is, itself, also ageing. Between the last two Censuses, the overall growth in the caregiver workforce occurred in the older age groups. In addition, few younger people are entering this vocation. A significant majority of paid caregivers are women.

The aged care sector faces serious challenges in the longer term. Long-term planning around the future of the caregiver workforce is needed in order to meet the increasing demand for paid caregivers. This could include developing policies to increase workforce participation, developing training programmes and establishing career structures within the aged care sector, as well as considering the immigration of low skilled workers as a potential means to recruit workers into the aged-care industry.

In addition, the sector needs to address and improve workplace productivity. It would benefit from considering a whole range of measures, for example investigating and potentially investing in areas such as the use of Information and Communication Technologies.

Link to full report HTML | PDF [34 Pages, 434kB]