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Older workers will have to fill the gap created by the demographic time bomb

David Woods , 22 Jun 2010

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Employees over 50 are set to provide the economic backbone of the South East workforce, according to the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).

Making the Most of Opportunities for Older Workers in the South East urges businesses in the region to review their recruitment practices to prepare for the ‘demographic time bomb’ which will see a shortfall of people for 250,000 jobs by 2020 that will have to be filled by older workers.

The ‘demographic time bomb’ over the next decade will result in more workers in their 50s and fewer in their 40s. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of workers in their 40s in the South East will fall by about 140,000 over the next decade while people in their 50s will increase by around 200,000.

Pre-recession research for SEEDA also suggested there were 100,000 economically inactive people aged 50-65 interested in returning to work.

Further reading

Rob Douglas, SEEDA chairman, said: As the economy emerges from recession, retaining the skills and experience of older workers will be vital to the UK’s continued economic growth and competitiveness. Where employers have previously looked to recruit people in their 40s, more and more will need to look to people over 50. We know that employers can be very flexible about their workforce – the way in which many workers have been retained during the downturn has proved this. The challenge now to South East employers is to be much more flexible in their approach to recruitment.

The research followed the 40-70 Tomorrow’s Workforce Programme, which ran from 2008-2010 and focussed on eight projects that piloted ways to encourage older people to stay in work and to encourage employees to broaden their recruitment pool. The programme re-engaged 3,500 workers throughout the region and was successful in making businesses aware of the benefits of employing older workers.

The report refers to research which shows that employers value older workers for their motivation and loyalty; skills, knowledge and experience; reliability and attention to detail; and empathy with colleagues and customers. It also cites examples from B&Q where absenteeism is 39% lower among their older workers and Nationwide where annual turnover is 4% for older workers compared with 10% for younger workers. It also demonstrated how people recruited in their 50s and 60s stay on average for 13 years.

The report contains case study summaries on each of the eight projects together with ‘10 key messages’ for commissioners, providers of skills and employment support services. These are being drawn on in national good practice guidelines that The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) is currently producing on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions.  

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