Indicator 12: Labour force participation

Indicator 12: Labour force participation of older persons by age, sex, and ethnicity.
Indicator is fully reported? Yes; data that is not already published is available on request.
Type of indicator Outcome indicator Outcome indicator
Other relevant indicators
  • Employment rate
  • Unemployment rate – see Madrid indicator 13.
  • New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy indicator – the proportion of people aged 65 years and older who are employed for at least one hour each week, as measured by the Household Labour Force Survey.[1]
Our findings

When older people are employed, their employment brings social and financial benefits to society, to industry and business, and to the older people. The ageing population means that employing older workers is increasingly important to economic development. The workforce participation of older people has increased since 1986.


Labour-force participation calculates the number of people who are working or available for work.[2]

The employment rate is the number of people employed as a percentage of the working-age population.[3]

Quarterly data

Statistics New Zealand publishes quarterly information from the Household Labour Force Survey.[4]

Figure 1 shows the rates of labour-force participation for people aged 65+ and employment rate for people aged 65+, using data from the December 2012 report. It shows that the rates from December 2011 to December 2012 were within 1%.

Longer-term trends

The Ministry of Social Development reports on its indicator at, using data from the Household Labour Force Survey. The current report shows that the employment rate for people aged 65+ increased from about 8.5% in 1996 to 17% in 2010.

Census data allows longer-term trends to be identified. This data can be reported by age, sex, and ethnicity. In 2009, Statistics NZ published a study called Labour force participation of New Zealanders aged 65 years and over, 1986-2006.[5] There are plans to update the report after the 2013 census.

Key trend data from the 2009 report is that for people aged 65+:

  • the labour-force participation rate increased from 6.4% in 1986 to 17.1% in 2006;[6]
  • their proportion of the total labour force increased from 1.4% in 1986 to 3.9% in 2006;[7]
  • from 1986 to 2006, the participation rate for men increased from 11.2% to 23.9%, and for women increased from 2.9% to 11.6%; and[8]
  • in 2006, Europeans tended to have a lower labour-force participation rate from age 70-74 than Māori.[9]
How entities use the data

Statistics NZ used data collected from the census to publish information on trends in labour-force participation. Publications are updated after each census. This provides public entities and the private sector with useful information for policy development and planning.

An example of how the data can be used is a 2010 report published by the Department of Labour – now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – called Labour force participation in New Zealand: Recent trends, future scenarios, and the impact on economic growth in 2010.[10] A chapter in the report focuses on the ageing population.[11]

Entity responsible for this indicator Statistics New Zealand

Figure 1: Labour-force participation rate and employment rate, for people aged 65+, December 2011 to December 2012

Figure 1: Labour force participation rate and employment rate for people aged 65+ for the December 2012 quarter.

Source: Table 4 of the data tables for the December 2012 quarter,

[1] The New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy (2001) is available at



[4] Data by age and sex is available on Infoshare.


[6] Page 9 of the report.

[7] Page 9 of the report.

[8] Page 12 of the report.

[9] Page 23 of the report.



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