17 Jun The Number of over 70s in work doubles in a decade
“The face of Britain’s workforce is changing dramatically. We can’t afford to ignore our older workers.” This quote comes from a Guardian article about the rise in the number of workers aged 70 and over in the UK workforce.
In fact, the number of people still working into their 70s has doubled in the last decade to reach nearly half a million, according to research commissioned by Rest Less, the site for work and volunteering opportunities specifically targeted at the over-50s.
While many laud the findings, pointing to the improved wellbeing of many older people today and the positive impact they can have in the workplace, others point out that there are often more sinister reasons for this trend.
For a while, the over 50s have been applauded for driving the UK’s growth in employment, however the growing numbers of employed people aged 70 plus, shows that older workers are making an increasing economic contribution. For many, working past retirement is a positive choice, bringing health, social and economic benefits to many pensioners. Reverend Michael Soulsby, who took up a hospital chaplaincy at the age of 80 and is still working one or two days a week is a case in point. “My age is totally irrelevant in terms of my health…I feel exactly the same physically as I did 20 years ago. I would like to think that my age has…made me a better hospital chaplain”.
We often hear about how lonely and isolated many older people feel, however remaining active, getting out of the house regularly and meeting people through work is one way to combat this. With increased life expectancy, many people feel that they have plenty left to give well after retirement age.
However, while many make a positive choice to continue working, are others being left with little option?
Some point out that the rise in workers over 70, coincides with the worsening levels of pensioner poverty in the UK. For many, the decision to carry on working is made for them, as they have to continue working in order to pay for their basic essentials. The nearly two million pensioners living in poverty have had their right to retire removed as they continue working to pay the bills. What is clear is that future policies need to take account of this growing demographic with policies that will keep older people, even with health issues or caring responsibilities engaged with the labour market. With skills and labour shortages, economic uncertainty and fewer younger people entering the workforce, it is vital that firms adopt policies to benefit older workers, such as flexible working, enabling them to work for as long as they want to.
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have older colleagues, or are you looking to work past retirement age? What can businesses do to make life easier for older employees?