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Labour Force Projected to Increase and Age

Labour Force Projected to Increase and Age

New Zealand's labour force is projected to increase from 1.97 million in 2001 to peak at 2.34 million in the early 2020s, according to the 2001-base national labour force projections released by Statistics New Zealand. Half of this increase is expected between 2001 and 2006. Beyond 2021, the number of people in the labour force is likely to stabilise as the number of new entrants approximates the number retiring. These figures are from the mid-range series 4M, one of eight different projection series derived to indicate the potential supply of people available for work.

The projections also show further ageing of the labour force. In 1991, half of the labour force was aged over 36 years. The median age of the labour force is currently 40 years and is projected to reach 42 years in 2014.

Most of the change in the age composition of the labour force results from the ageing of the large numbers of people born from the 1950s to 1970s. Between 1991 and 2001, the labour force aged 45–64 years increased from 440,000 to 650,000. This age group is projected to number 940,000 around 2019. In 1991, the labour force aged 25–44 years (870,000) was twice as large as the labour force aged 45–64 years. In 2014, there will be about 910,000 in both age groups.

The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over who are in the labour force increased from 6 percent in 1991 to 8 percent in 2001 and is assumed to increase to 13 percent in 2011. This increasing labour force participation, combined with more people in the older ages, means that the labour force aged 65 years and over is expected to increase from an estimated 25,000 in 1991 and 38,000 in 2001, to 101,000 in 2021.

By comparison, the labour force aged under 25 years is projected to increase from about 340,000 in 2001 to 400,000 in the early 2010s. However, by the early 2030s it will have declined to about 350,000.

The labour force comprises people aged 15 years and over who regularly work for one or more hours per week for financial gain, or work without pay in a family business, or are unemployed and actively seeking part-time or full-time work.

Brian Pink
Government Statistician

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