Work is the norm for the over 50s

The 50 to retirement generation make up over a quarter of the working age population and employment rates are growing faster than the norm.

  • There are just over 10 million over 50s in work, making up nearly one third of the total working population.
  • 7 in 10 of the 50-64 year old population are in work compared to 8 in 10 of 35 to 49 year olds, the peak age for employment.
  • Three quarters of men aged 50-64 are working compared to two thirds of women.
  • Recent growth of over 50s in work has exceeded growth in the employment rate of the rest of the working population.
  • But pay peaks in your 40s, indicating that many over 50s at work have had to shift to lower paid jobs than they had in their earlier careers. These are trends in full-time pay, both annual and hourly, and so are not accounted for simply by a reduction in hours.

Employment of over 50s has increased in recent decades

Earlier trends in early retirement have been reversed. More over 50s are now at work and working beyond state retirement age is also increasing.

  • The number of over 50s in employment has risen steadily in recent decades.
  • This reverses the trend towards early retirement seen in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Job Release Scheme promoted early retirement in a bid to increase employment amongst younger people.
  • It is now understood that increasing employment amongst the over 50s does not negatively affect the employment prospects of younger workers. In fact increasing over 50s participation in the labour market can boost employment rates for younger people through increased demand and job creation.

Long-term unemployment and a lack of flexible working opportunities are issues for over 50s.

The unemployment rate amongst 50 to 64 year olds is similar to that of those aged 35 to 49, but is characterised by long-term joblessness. But there are many more out of work 50-64 year olds not actively looking for work and so not classified as unemployed – those defined as economically inactive.

  • There are 0.3 million 50-64 year olds who are classified as unemployed – people not in work who are actively looking for a job.
  • Unemployment for this age group is often long-term and many over 50s who become unemployed struggle to find work.
  • Nearly half of people over 50 who are unemployed have been out of work for 12 months or more, compared with a rate of one third for unemployed people of all ages.
  • But many more 50-65 year olds not in work are economically inactive – those not in work but not looking for work. Over 3 million 50-64 year olds are classified as economically inactive.
  • One fifth of people aged 50-64 who are economically inactive say they would like to work if they could find suitable employment.

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