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Employment of over 50s has 'grown significantly'

Research from the DWP highlights a change in working habits for older employees

Employment of workers over the age of 50 has grown significantly over the past decades, according to research from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The report, titled Employment statistics for workers aged 50 and over, by 5-year age bands and gender, studied changes between 1984 and 2015. It found that the employment rate for people aged 50 to 64 has grown from 55.4% to 69.6% over the past 30 years, an increase of 14.2 percentage points.

The employment rate gap between men aged 50-64 and women of the same age was found to have dropped from close to 28 percentage points 30 years ago, to 10.9 percentage points in 2015.

While the researchers suggest part of the increase in the numbers of workers over 50 can be explained by demographic changes, growth in employment rates shows that the number of people over 50 in employment has risen faster than the population over 50.

Steven Baxter, head of longevity innovation and research at Hymans Robertson, explained that people working for longer was due to a number of reasons.

“First, we’re living longer,” he said. “Second, much of the change is driven by women where retirement age equalisation policies will have influenced employment patterns at older ages. Thirdly, we’re reaching a point where we’re starting to see the first cohorts DC savers retire, and many of them won’t have enough saved to retire comfortably. However, I also hope that the health benefits associated with work are starting to be appreciated too, so that some of this change is voluntary rather than required to make ends meet."

Baxter suggested employers should be considering ways to better support older workers. “There is evidence of more flexible working options becoming available to those of retirement age, but as a nation we’ll need to do more to support those who wish to stay in employment for longer - be that for financial or other reasons,” he said.

He added however that: “We need to ensure that we move from a culture of consumption to one of saving as there is a limit to how long people can continue working, and there’s a limit to how much employers can support that.”