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News - 30 January 2010

Should older people be encouraged to work?

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that many people approaching the age of retirement would prefer to continue working.

Scrapping the default retirement age would reduce the financial burden on the state and prevent a shortage of skills needed to steer Britain through the economic recovery. But it is not just about policy. Businesses need to re-evaluate their position on employing over 50s.

The report shows that financial necessity is the main driver in keeping older people at work but that isn't the whole story. Many want to stay for personal fulfilment and development.

Extending working lives by 18 months could inject £15 billion into the British economy. An end to forced retirement at age 65 will keep skills in the economy, decrease welfare costs and increase the spending power of older Britons.

A total of 24% of men and 64% of women say they plan to keep working beyond the state pension age.

According to the report the ageing of the population has led policy-makers to put a high priority on extending working life. However, little attention has been paid to creating the conditions to enable people to work beyond retirement age. Traditional views about older workers still shape the attitudes of many employers. The survey of the work aspirations of the over 50s, and the barriers facing them, reveals that many assumptions made about this age group are wrong:

  • The majority of workers over 50 (62% of women and 59% of men) want to continue working beyond state pension age.
  • More than twice as many (1%) over 50s want promotion as want to downshift (4%).
  • Instead of being unfit to work due to ageing and ill health, 62% describe themselves as feeling as fit as ever, with structural and attitudinal barriers thwarting their ability to stay involved.
  • Enthusiasm for learning persists: 44 per cent of 56-59 year-olds and a third of 60-64 year-olds have undertaken training in the past three years. 2% of the over 50s had trained to improve their job prospects.
  • Responsibility for children continues, with nearly one-quarter of 56-59 year-olds and 9% of 70-75 year-olds still supporting their children financially.
  • Working longer is not a burden borne purely out of necessity: those who have elected to work longer are happy and enjoying what they do.
  • There is significant demand for greater flexibility in hours and location of work.

Almost 70% of the over 50s unemployed below state pension age and 85% of people inactive and over state pension age said that greater availability of flexible and part-time work would help them to find jobs.

An official review on retirement ages is due this year. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the Lords today have the opportunity to remove the default retirement age through the Equality Bill.

Read related items on:
Equality and Human Rights Commission

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