Over 50s Powerhouse of Growth for the UK Economy

Maintaining a sense of purpose throughout later life is really important on so many levels - whether this is through education, work, travel or giving back through volunteering.

Over 50’s labour market statistics published in February this year shows that the over 50s have driven nearly 80% of the total growth in UK employment over the last decade.

2.4 million in employment are over the age of 50

That’s right, data from the Office for National Statistics report there are nearly three million more people in employment than there were 10 years ago and of these, 2.4 million are over the age of 50, including nearly 600,000 from those over 65.

This is truly incredible, but perhaps not surprising to anyone over the age of 50. However, I find that when I bring this up in conversation with anyone under the age of 50, most are truly gobsmacked.

In fact it forces most younger individuals to sit up and rethink their perception of age in the workplace and in society more generally – something that can only be a good thing.

But is this rapid growth in employment over the age of 50 a positive thing for society? As always, the answer is never simply black or white …..

To better understand this, at Rest Less we worked with YouGov to ask people if they planned to work beyond state pension age, and if so, why?

One in three (34%) people in the UK said they planned to work beyond state pension age.

Positively, 51% said they wanted to keep working for health and wellbeing reasons such as meeting new people, keeping socially engaged and learning new skills. Growing awareness of the benefits of an active retirement may explain why 27% of respondents also said they intended to volunteer after reaching state pension age.

This is the positive side of the statistics and with the right opportunities, it has been well documented that staying active in later years through work or volunteering can lead to better health and a greater sense of wellbeing in retirement. We just need to look at people like David Attenborough, Judy Dench or Ian McKellen to see first hand the benefits of staying active in later years.

The less positive side is that worryingly, 40% of those surveyed planned to work beyond the state pension age because they simply cannot afford to retire. This stark difference in fortunes is perhaps one of the main drivers behind the large gulf in life expectancy between rich and poor.

Factors driving boom in later life employment

There are a number of external factors driving this boom in later life employment – the most obvious being the increase in the state pension age to 66, which will no doubt require many to remain gainfully employed for another year to make ends meet.

The rapid equalisation of the women’s state pension age – which has increased from 60 to 65 over the course of just seven years – has led to many women being forced to continue working out of financial hardship. This is almost certainly the main driver behind 42% of the UK’s employment growth over the last decade coming from women aged over 50.

On a personal level, what is clear is that the sudden transition from working five days a week to suddenly not working at all is not good for most of us. Many of us have high hopes in the lead up to retirement but disappointment can often follow. We hear from many people who retire ‘overnight’ so to speak, only to discover that retirement is often not all it’s cracked up to be.

Maintain a sense of Purpose

Maintaining a sense of purpose throughout later life is really important on so many levels – whether this is through education, work, travel or giving back through volunteering. There are so many opportunities out there but the challenge is finding and selecting the right thing for you.

Stuart Lewis

Founder of www.restless.co.uk

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