Old habits die hard: number of over-65s in work rises

Official figures show that more and more over-65s are opting to stay in work. Great for them, but not for the young...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 17 Jun 2011
Not content with just complaining about the yoof of today, it may be that pensioners have started pinching their jobs too. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, in the last three months of 2010, there were 270,000 full-time and 600,000 part-time workers who were over-65. That's 8.8% of that age group, up from 4.6% 10 years ago. And apparently this is set to rise even further. Good news for some - but young people in search of gainful employment may beg to differ.

According to the figures, older workers are nothing if not committed: in the three months to December, more than eight in 10 over-65s still working said they’d been with their employee for five years or more, while a whopping 41% said they’d been there for 20 years or more. You don’t see staying power like that very much these days. And this kind of continuity should be good for their companies, too.

Of course, for some, this longevity is less positive. The likelihood is that the number of people over 65 still in work is going to go up over the next few years, because changes set to come into effect in October will mean businesses can no longer force people to take retirement. That's useful for those who still haven’t saved quite the pension they’d like – but it means that there will be fewer jobs coming up. For 16-24-year-olds, among whom the unemployment rate has now risen to just over a fifth, that's very unwelcome news.

As a side note, there’s an interesting point raised in a separate report by volunteer charity WRVS today. According to its research, over-65s contribute almost £40bn more to the economy than they get in state pensions, welfare and health services. Apparently, they’re prolific carers and financial donors, while half of older people volunteer, and 65% say they ‘regularly help out elderly neighbours’. An interesting antidote to some of the recent pieces complaining about the burden these baby boomers are going to place on society.

And (youth unemployment notwithstanding) this raises a separate point that may worry the Government: if more and more pensioners end up working for a living, who exactly is going to run the Big Society?

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