What Employers Need to Know About the Ageing Workforce

Workers over 50 now comprise 27 per cent of the UK workforce

Workers over 50 already comprise 27 per cent of the workforce in the UK. In five years, that number is expected to grow to one-third. Older workers are choosing to stay employed in increasing numbers, and it appears that businesses are glad to have them.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), those who fall into the 55-64 year age range consistently show the lowest rate of unemployment, even when compared to prime working-age adults (those 25 to 54 years old). Based on data from the second quarter of 2014 used in their study, unemployment for older workers was at 4.2 per cent while the rate for prime age workers was 4.8 per cent.  The most recent data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), reported for April-June 2015, suggests that the overall unemployment rate was 5.6%, while the unemployment rate for those aged 50-64 was just 3.4%.

A report from the Department for Work and Pensions (PDF) points out a sobering reality. The UK is running out of workers. In the next 10 years, job vacancies are expected to reach 13.5 million openings. It is predicted that only seven million young people will be coming out of school and joining the workforce during that time period. That leaves half of this job need left unfilled. A bridge must be found somewhere, and quickly.

The benefits of hiring older workers

The publication from the Department for Work and Pensions describes why older workers make for promising candidates:

  • They provide a broad range of skills and experience.
  • They have skills that can be passed on to younger workers through mentoring and training.
  • They match their younger counterparts in productivity, offsetting any loss of speed with better judgement gained from experience.
  • They take fewer sick days.
  • They contribute to improved staff morale.
  • They like their jobs. Older workers want to keep working, at least on a part-time basis.  50 per cent of workers over 55 plan to work beyond the State Pension age (currently age 60 for women, 65 for men).

According to the report, age does not negatively impact ROI, particularly when new hires in the over-50 age range bring to the job a greater level of skills gained from working at more senior positions that paid a higher wage.

Employers willing to make some changes to their expectations about standard work hours might just get the attention of a lot of Baby Boomers. This generation is looking for flexibility in their work commitments. Part-time hours, job sharing, home working and contract work are very attractive to those who’ve spent a lifetime working 9 to 5, are looking to wind down but not come to a full-stop.

New perceptions about older workers are helping employers recognise the productivity and resourcefulness that can be found within this segment of the population. A lifetime of work has rewarded many with experience, diligence, patience, perspective, enthusiasm and appreciation for their jobs and their employers. These are qualities businesses can benefit from, regardless of the age of those they recruit.