This is a question that I am beginning to be asked more often. One of the joys of a portfolio career is that in theory you can work as long as you wish – especially with the end of age discrimination. I have been quoting government statistics for some time that clearly suggests that the economy will need more older workers to keep working as more jobs will be required than can be fulfilled by the younger age groups and immigrants. I am delighted therefore to receive the latest report on this issue from the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK. Employers will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies over the next 10 years but only 7 million young people will leave school and college during that time.The DWP is exhorting employers not to let go of their older workers.
Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, told The Daily Telegraph he regarded older workers as “an untapped resource”.
“People have often said, ‘how are we going to tackle ageist attitudes amongst employers?’ The demographics are going to sort that out for us,” he said.
“Over time there will be a whole set of jobs where employers need experienced older workers and a firm that doesn’t change its attitude to older workers will be left behind.”
The department has published a new guide for employers on how to hire and retain older workers in order to build a “multi-generational workforce”.
Currently 27 per cent of the workforce is over 50 but this will rise to one third by 2020, the guide said.
Businesses should recruit and retain more older workers because, “unlike migrants, they already live here, and their numbers are growing”.
The document said most older workers remained just as productive as their younger counterparts “at least up to age 70”.
Failure to change practices to recruit and retain workers beyond the age of 60 will lead to skills shortages and risk future age discrimination claims as employers can no longer force staff to retire, the guide warned.
Successful employers have reported benefits of employing workers in their 60s, including the broader range of skills and experiences they bring, more opportunities to mentor new recruits, reduced staff turnover and better morale.
Companies such as McDonald’s have found that their outlets are more productive where they are staffed by both older and younger workers, it said.
Mr Webb said the plan was not intended to force people to work “into their seventies and beyond” but was aimed at preventing older workers dropping out, perhaps through treatable heath problems.
“This isn’t ‘work ‘til you drop,’” he said. “This is actually enabling people to carry on and in most cases that is good for their wellbeing as well. There is no evidence that older workers were taking jobs away from young graduates and school leavers”.
According to the guide, employers should “consider offering apprenticeships and work experience opportunities to people of any age: younger and older.”
Although many employers believe that older workers can be assets, people aged over 50 are the least likely group to be recruited once they are out of work, it said.
Most people aged 65 today will live into their 80s while some will survive beyond the age of 110, according to government actuaries.
The guide follows suggestions from the government that older people should go back to university to retrain for work. There is no age limit on taking out a loan to pay student tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.
My word, how attitudes are changing so quickly relating to the future of work and the impact one can make at any age. Portfolio workers are better equipped than most to embrace a gradual move towards retirement.