In my post yesterday on labour force participation rates I included this chart
There has been some increase in participation rates for those aged 70 and over, but the really striking movement has been in the 65-69 age group. More than half of men, and almost 40 per cent of women, in this first NZS recipient age group, are still in the labour force. (Interestingly, the gap between male and female participation rates for this age group hasn’t materially changed over the 30+ years of the chart.)
I went on to observe, relevant to NZS policy, that (emphasis added)
If you are able to work and are financially able not to, that is almost entirely a matter of individual/family choice, but you (generally) shouldn’t be eligible for long-term state income support. New Zealand’s experience suggests that the overwhelming bulk of those aged, say, 65-67 are well able to work (we don’t have the data, but presumably – given what happens from 70 on (see above) – participation rates of those 68 and 69 are materially lower than those for people 65-67). Against that backdrop, there is something just wrong about having a universal pension paid to them – well, me not that many years hence on current policy – simply on the basis of having got to that age.
My post caught the eye of someone at Statistics New Zealand who dug out the data by each year in the 65-69 age range, and sent me the following chart.
The standard errors on some of these estimates are quite large, so don’t pay much attention to the year to year changes in each series. But it was good to see a consistent monotonic pattern in which – beyond the NZS eligibility age – the older you are the less likely you are to be working.
Using the data she sent me, here are what the participation rates look like for men and women separately at ages 65 and 69 (also for September years).
So almost 70 per cent of men aged 65 – almost all of whom will be recipients of NZS – were still working (or, in small numbers, actively seeking work). In some cases, of course, that work will be part-time only (being employed, in HLFS terms, means a minimum of an hour’s paid work in the reference week), but even a half-time minimum wage job would pay as much or more as a single rate of NZS.
As interesting perhaps is that even at 69 40 per cent of men were still active participants in the labour force. Since women have a longer life expectancy than men, presumably the materially lower female number is a reflection of past cultural practices and expectations – or perhaps even a stronger preference to spend time with grandchildren or in community activities – rather than physical incapacity.
I don’t often praise SNZ but today I offer only unmitigated kudos
(Well, perhaps mitigated only in this sense that if the annual data are readily available, and they are happy for people to use them – as they told me they were – why not make them routinely available on Infoshare?)