Over-70s still working more than doubles in 10 years
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The number of people aged over 70 who are still working has more than doubled in a decade to nearly half a million, new research has shown.
The number of those aged over 70 who are in full- or part-time employment has been steadily rising year on year for the past decade, according to new Office for National Statistics data, reaching a peak of 497,946 in the first quarter of this year – an increase of 135% since 2009.
Nearly one in 12 of those in their 70s are still working, a significant increase from the one in 22 who were working ten years ago.
“While we know that the over-50s, in general, have been the driving force behind the UK’s impressive employment growth in recent years, our deeper analysis shows the hard work and significant economic contribution made by the rapidly growing numbers of over-70s in the workplace,” said Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, the site for work and volunteering opportunities specifically targeted at the over-50s, which commissioned the research.
“Many are actively looking to top up their pension savings while they still can, but there is also a growing understanding of the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement,” he said.
The research also shows that nearly one in nine men aged 70 and over are currently working full or part-time: an increase of 137% over the past ten years.
Over three times more men aged 70 and above are working full-time compared with a decade ago: 113,513 up from 36,302 in 2009.
The number of women aged 70 and above who are still working has also more than doubled in a decade. Today, there are 175,000 women aged 70 and above in work: an increase of 131%.
In addition, the research found, there are currently more than 53,000 over 80s working in the UK, 25% of whom are working full-time.
But Catherine Seymour, head of policy at Independent Age, pointed out that the rise in people working beyond 65 coincides with increases in pensioner poverty. “One in every six people – nearly two million – of pension age are now living in poverty and every day, another 226 people join that number,” she said.
“Many people who are now working in their late sixties and seventies are doing so out of necessity to pay the rent, heat their homes and afford their weekly shop,” she added. “Everyone who wants to should be able to retire from paid work at state pension age, and these figures suggest many people cannot afford that right.”
Stephen Clarke, a senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, pointed out that the UK still performs poorly compared to many other similar countries in terms of older workers’ participation in the labour market. “Plenty more progress can be made,” he said.
“The government should enable people to partially drawdown pension pots while continuing to work, while businesses need to do more to keep those with health problems or caring responsibilities engaged with the labour market,” he added.
Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said that with fewer younger people starting work to replace those set to retire in the future, uncertainty over Brexit, and worsening skills and labour shortages, it’s vital that employers wake up and adopt age-friendly practices like flexible working to enable people to work for as long as they want.
“The face of Britain’s workforce is changing dramatically. We can’t afford to ignore our older workers,” he said.
Lily Parsey from the International Longevity Centre, said:
“To maximise the longevity dividend of our ageing society, we need to create inclusive and supportive workplaces, to ensure that we all can benefit from the benefits longevity can yield.”
A DWP spokesperson said, “As the researchers highlight, there is a growing understanding of the health and social benefits of working later in life. Everyone who wants to work should be able to regardless of their age, and older workers are making a valuable contribution in workplaces across the UK.
The spokesperson said that the “triple lock”, which guarantees a minimum increase in the state pension each year, and the pension credit benefit were reducing pensioner poverty.
Case study: ‘My age is totally irrelevant.’
Reverend Michael Soulsby, 82, took up a hospital chaplaincy in Buckinghamshire at the age of 80 and is still working one or two days a week.
“I retired as a Church of England parish priest at the age of 68 but un-retired four months later. I have been working part-time since then on baptisms, births, funerals, Sunday services and administering to those in hospital here who need me.
“My age is totally irrelevant in terms of my health. My wife has preserved me very well, so I feel exactly the same physically as I did 20 years ago. I would like to think that my age has, however, made me a better hospital chaplain because I’ve gained the experience to appreciate better what the people I’m administering to really need to hear.
“I’m not still working for financial reasons. I’m still working because there’s a great deal of satisfaction in a job well done. I’ll leave when I stop working to the judgement of the hospital and the chaplaincy, but I hope I still have a good few years in me left.”