Older Worker Injury Statistics Hard to Believe, New Zealand Group Says

Nov. 20, 2007
A group that advocates for the rights for New Zealand’s senior citizens is questioning recent national figures that show 1 in 5 older workers had a workplace accident in 2006.

“This claim is needlessly alarming older people and employers,” said Jill Williams, president of Age Concern. “The increasing number of seniors participating in the workforce is one of the great success stories of positive aging, but this could put the fight against ageism in workplaces back by years."

"The figures just don't stack up: 2006 Census figures show at least 81,369 people aged 65+ worked full time or part time. If you divide that by 9,100 claims, that's more like one in nine,” she added.

On Oct. 30, Statistics New Zealand revealed that approximately 9,100 workers aged 65 years and over suffered some form of injury at work in 2006. Workers in this age group also accounted for 24 of the 81 claims lodged for work-related fatalities, figures showed.

The statistics were derived from New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims.

But according to Williams, older workers who work part time have been “rolled together in the stats to make full-time equivalents,” which she said is “like comparing apples and oranges: dividing the number of older people working by the number of claims and saying that means 1 in 5 have accidents is nonsense.“

In addition, Williams noted that it wasn’t necessarily true that all of 9,100 seniors had a workplace accident just because they submitted claims. She said there are situations that senior citizens submit recent claims on occupational injuries.

Age Concern also says that older workers tend to continue working in statistically more hazardous sectors such as farming and the trades, so they would expect them to have slightly higher injury rates, in line with their colleagues of all ages.

“The sad reality is that for many older people, a frayed carpet on the way to the lounge is much more of an accident danger than their continuing to work,” Williams said.

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