New Zealand hit by premature ageing
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2010

New Zealand's workforce is being hit by "premature ageing" and needs to boost its numbers, says a Waikato University researcher.

An expert in regional demography, Professor Natalie Jackson, said New Zealand was losing people aged 20 to 40 - mainly due to emigration - which was driving up the median age of the population.

"Crunch time is approaching with the number of retirees set to boom and fewer and fewer young people coming into the labour market," she said.

"The issues are huge because New Zealand is parked right next to Australia, which has an older population than New Zealand, and is like a vacuum sucking in Kiwi migrants."

Europe's population had stopped growing, and that region was interested in skilled young people from New Zealand.

"We can't necessarily count on filling the gap with skilled migrants given the fierce international competition to attract these people," Prof Jackson said.

New Zealand needed to get more women into the workforce, she said.

A former president of the Australian Population Association, Prof Jackson has spent the past 15 years in Australian universities researching the regional impacts of population ageing, and differences between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand.

She has acted as a consultant on ageing populations and said that Tasmania had also been losing young people, like New Zealand, which caused an "applecore shape" in the population's age groups - thinned out in the middle.

"This has huge economic implications because it's the young people who buy the houses and take out first mortgages, they're the ones who have the children and they're the ones who buy the whiteware," said Prof Jackson, who heads the university's centre for population studies.

The university wants to create a national institute of demographic and economic analysis over the next two years, and Prof Jackson said she also wanted to develop research known as feminist demography - which views the family as an entity producing the future labour force and taxpayers.

"With fewer young people around to replace ageing baby boomers in the labour market, we're going to need all hands on deck," she said. "It's the family that generates these future workers and taxpayers. We need to...see more investment in the family."

From here.