Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Scrapheap the fear for jobless over 50s

One recruitment company said it was a battle to persuade employers to take on white-collar workers in their 50s. Photo / Thinkstock
One recruitment company said it was a battle to persuade employers to take on white-collar workers in their 50s. Photo / Thinkstock

Chances of getting a job at age 50-plus are looking up for New Zealanders, but some Aucklanders say they are hitting a wall of rejection from employers.

A West Auckland man said he had unsuccessfully applied for 60 jobs since he was made redundant in March as a manufacturing company's health and safety official.

John Riddell reached the interview stage with only three employers and felt the rejection letters were probably because he was 58.

Since losing his job, he had met other West Auckland residents, including engineers, bankers and a nurse, who were unable to find jobs.

Mr Riddell's plight is no surprise to Waikato University professor of social gerontology Peggy Koopman-Boyden.

"When things get tougher, people get marginalised and what we call the reserve army is formed.

"People are there for the good time, but when it's a bad time they get sent back again.

"But we need to get older people working because we are going to be short of certain skills."

She said that in a recession when employers were not taking on workers they were more likely to be ageist and sexist than when there were lots of jobs.

A director of recruitment company H2R Consulting, Jane Walker, said it was a battle to persuade employers to take on white-collar workers in their 50s.

They were deemed to be overqualified for a role.

But they wanted to be involved in something to which they could add value.

Some employers preferred to bring in a younger person, thinking they could hang on to them for longer.

But on the side of 50-plus jobseekers was that the New Zealand workforce was rapidly ageing.

"Baby-boomers are going to have to be employed.

"The jobs are out there now"

Her advice to mature job-seekers was to make themselves more attractive to employers by updating their skills and presentation and, by always showing a positive attitude.

John Riddell has applied for two jobs a week since March.

"I've had interviews and I thought something would fall into place, but ..." he said yesterday.

Mr Riddell, who has a grown-up family, said he had tried to keep his home by renting it out and moving in with his father.

He fears that bankruptcy will end his community service roles as secretary-treasurer of a community hall and being on the committees of Keep Waitakere Beautiful, Don Buck Primary School Board and the Hibiscus Coast Car Club.

Instead of demanding specific qualifications on paper, he wished prospective employers would inspect what he had achieved in a part-time job, including boosting the bookings of the Massey Birdwood Settlers Association's community hall.

- NZ Herald

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