20 October 2022

The data we collect provides age profile information on the Public Service workforce.

Shifting workforce age profile

The average age of the Public Service workforce as at 30 June 2022 was 44.0 years, the same as last year. The average age of the workforce has been trending down slightly from a peak in 2015–16 of 44.8 years. Before then, the workforce had been aging steadily, with the average age in 2000 being 40.8 years.

The proportion of the Public Service workforce that is 50 years or older has stayed steady in 2022, at 35.4%. This follows increases from 22.0% in 2000 to a peak of 37.4% in 2016. This broadly reflects what happened in the overall New Zealand labour force where the proportion of workers aged 50 years and over went from around 22% to 34% over the same period. Public servants under the age of 35 now make up 30.5% of the workforce, compared with 24.3% in 2012.

This suggests that the ageing of the workforce has slowed. Contributing to this is the increase in the Public Service workforce over the past few years. New recruits are generally younger and more ethnically diverse than the existing workforce. The average age of those recruited into public service departments in the year to 30 June 2022 was again 37 years, compared to 46 years for the existing workforce.

The following interactive visualisation allows you to look at how the Public Service age profile has changed by occupation and agency over the past decade. By occupational group, a notable change is in the average age of policy analysts, which has decreased from 41.1 to 38.2 over the past decade. Asian, Pacific and MELAA employees have a younger age profile than European staff, and this may contribute to greater diversity in the Public Service in coming years.

Older Workers in the Public Service - Te Taunaki Census Findings

In the first Te Taunaki survey conducted in May/June 2021, more than 14,000 people responded who were aged 50+, who we define as older workers. Fifty percent of respondents aged 50+ and 30% aged 65+ have been in their role for less than 5 years, which indicates that older workers are being hired for Public Service jobs.

As people age, tenure rates increase and the likelihood of looking for new roles declines. This aligns with research that reports older workers are loyal and offer stability in the workplace.

Overall job satisfaction is the highest among older workers with 71% being satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Older employees also reported they felt comfortable at work – an indicator that gradually increases with age (88% of those aged 65+ feel comfortable at work).

Flexibility is another factor that is valued by older workers in the Public Service with 63% saying this is highly important for staying in their role.  Of the 76% of older workers using flexible options, 25% used it because they had childcare responsibilities, 19% used it because they had caring responsibilities for other people, and 12% used it because they had a disability.

In all 62% of older workers felt they had access to the learning and development that was needed to do their job well, which is the same level as those younger than 50.  In addition, 63% of those aged 50-64 and 61% of those aged 65+ having completed work related training in the past 12 months. This did not translate to how satisfied older people felt about their development opportunities, which was reported at a similar rate across all age groups (between 50-60%).

Interesting work and being part of a workplace that contributes to a positive society were the two main reasons for staying in the Public Service regardless of age.