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Rising employment of older workers not linked to youth unemployment, says TUC


The past 20 years have seen a significant increase in the proportion of over-50s and people over retirement age in employment, the TUC reported yesterday.

The analysis - published to coincide with the latest unemployment figures, which will be issued later this morning by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - finds that the jobs market has changed significantly since 1992.

Age and Gender: What has changed in the labour market in recent years finds that 57% of people aged between 50 and 64 were in work in April 1992. This rose to 65% by December 2010.

Over the same period, the proportion of those aged over 64 in work rose from 6% to 9%. This is a significant increase for retirement age workers, who now make up a bigger share of the total working population.

The report also reveals young people have become less likely to be in employment over the same period - mainly because of the expansion of education, but also as young people have been hit hard by the recession.

In April 1992, 49% of 16- and 17-year-olds were in employment, but that figure had dropped to 23.6% by December 2010. Two in three (66%) of 18- to 24-year-olds were working in April 1992, but this fell to around 58% by the end of 2010.

The proportion of 'prime age' workers (those aged 25 to 49) has remained steady, despite the recession, according to the TUC analysis.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Older people bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace. The increasing number of over-65s in work shows that older workers are highly valued and that the Government is absolutely right to scrap the default retirement age.

"But there is a darker side to people working beyond their retirement. Low wages and poor pension provision, particularly in the private sector, mean that many people simply cannot afford to retire at 65. The failure of far too many employers to help staff save for their retirement is forcing these people into pensioner poverty and placing a huge cost burden on the state.

"It is a mistake to blame older workers for youth unemployment - they tend not to be doing the jobs young unemployed people might expect to get. The main reason for the young people's jobs crisis is that there just aren't enough new jobs being created that are appropriate for young people to do. And of course the more people we have in work overall, the more the economy grows and the more jobs are created.

"We have seen record youth unemployment figures this year, and the Government's decision to scrap the Future Jobs Fund, months before its poorly-funded replacement was due to start, has helped drive the rise in the number of young people out of work.

"Scrapping Education Maintenance Allowance and hiking university tuition fees will only further reduce the chances of young people - and with inflation rising at over twice the level of earnings, those in work are also finding it hard to make ends meet," Barber said.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), said: "As average lifespans continue to grow, working longer is increasingly becoming part of our way of thinking.


"For many people, working past the state retirement age is essential, as they have not built up enough savings to be able to retire.


"While being employed in later years can have positive impacts on self-esteem and overall health, it needs to be done reasonably. We should not have to work until we drop.

"This is why we need a pensions system that is fit for purpose and enables people to save more easily for their old age."