Over-50s' careers 'more likely to stagnate'

According to a new survey, the over-50s are less likely to be promoted or change careers.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 16 Mar 2012
We all know that as the years pass, time seems to speed up – but where the careers of the over-50s are concerned, that’s increasingly not the case, according to a new report. Figures by the Employers’ Forum on Age have found that the older people are, the more their careers have ground to a halt. In fact, the report showed that for people over the age of 50, the average time between ‘career transitions’ (that’s a promotion, or a total change in career) is about three years – more than three times that of the under-30s, who have an upheaval about once a year. The EFA argues that, far from being happy in their jobs, many of those in the over-50s category are being neglected when it comes to training and promotion. Should we be doing more to help the aged?

According to the figures, the average age of the UK workforce has risen from just over 34 in 1971, to almost 39 in 2007. And that’s without taking the recession into consideration, which is generally perceived to have encouraged people to work for longer as their finances became more stretched. And there’s further proof of that: at the moment, while just 42.4% of yoofs are in gainful employment, almost 65% of those between 50 and pension age are still slogging away.

But despite their prevalence within the workforce, it seems the nation’s silvertops aren’t being given the attention they deserve by employers. The report points out that as a group, the over-50s are the least likely to have qualifications, so ensuring they’re fully trained-up is important, but employers are more likely to ignore them in favour of fresh-faced new recruits. And it added that employers’ older workers might need a bit of gentle encouragement when it comes to those all-important career transitions. ‘Some people are not motivated to seek change and need to be actively encouraged to prevent them from stagnating’. Or perhaps they just like the status quo?

Now, some might point to the fact that, free of the responsibilities of mortgages and children, the younger factions of the workforce will always be more liable than their older colleagues to chop and change their career at the drop of a hat (or at least the reassuring jingle of an extra bit of change in their pockets). And not all over-50s are helplessly sitting behind their desks, hoping the end (of their career, naturally) will come quickly and painlessly. Figures out last month indicated that many are seizing their careers with both hands and signing up to apprenticeship schemes. Last year, 5,376 over-50s applied for apprenticeships, compared to just over half that the year before.

So while many over-50s may be thinking of nothing more strenuous than tending to their tomatoes, there are also plenty who are want to carry on working, and are happy to embrace the training involved. With the retirement age about to be raised to 66, employers are going to have to start making the most out of their ageing workforce at some point - it might as well be now.

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