Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Implications of aging rural population

Avatar photo
A leading demographer admits she finds the latest headlines on labour shortages exasperating, having spent over a decade highlighting the issue to local bodies, industry groups and employers throughout New Zealand.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Former head of demography at University of Waikato and professor of demography at Massey University Dr Natalie Jackson says she spent much of the decade from 2010 to 2020 trying to explain the labour market implications of population aging to about 200 conference audiences in all fields.

“I admit I am exasperated at the lack of awareness and it seems many have found it difficult to connect the dots on this one,” Jackson said.

“People would invariably tell me how interesting it was after I had presented. But at the end of the day the policies seem to be moving in the other direction in regions, based instead on growth that is just not going to happen. The shortages of labour are going to be systemic.”

Massey professor Paul Spoonley says baby boomers, the first who arrived in 2010, are increasingly going to dominate many regional and rural communities for the next 20 years.

“And at the beginning of life, the number of births is dropping, in relation to the size of the population. It is now at 1.6 per adult female,” Spoonley said.

Replacement rate is 2.1.

In absolute terms, NZ is also having 2000 fewer births year-on-year and younger age groups will only decline in future.

“These entry and exit figures become increasingly important and begin to change the labour and talent supply available to employers and sectors,” he said.

Areas looking at horticulture in particular to grow the local economy are particularly vulnerable to this aging population.

Spoonley cites Nelson, where numbers of under 14-year-olds drop 11% in the next 10 years, while those aged over 65 will soar by 16%, with 8300 more 65-pluses than under-14s.

In Hawke’s Bay under-14s drop by 17%, while those over 65 will grow 7%. The Bay will have a staggering 18,700 more 65-pluses than under-14s by 2033.

“Rather than having a large youthful base, many of the regions and communities will become old-dominant,” he said.

“What this means is that the older age groups will constitute a more important labour source.

“A quarter of all over 65s already continue to be in paid work,  but it also indicates the size of the labour market exit numbers. They will leave the workforce, leaving a large gap, especially given the size of this generation.”

He points to the other end of the age spectrum where there will be fewer under-14s and therefore fewer to enter the local workforce.

“The size of the entry groups will continue to decline and have significant implications for labour supply,” he said.

“What is staggering is how many more older people there will be compared to the very young in our communities.”

People are also reading