This guest blog was contributed by Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN, The Age and Employment Network.
The idea of a given ‘retirement age,’ when most people abruptly cease work, may soon be a thing of the past. While it is important not to exaggerate this trend, we can’t just ignore it.
Every day, it seems, the media carries stories about how people will have to work longer. Sarah O’Grady recently wrote in the Daily Express under the headline, ‘Millions must work forever.’
A sense of proportion is important. Currently more than 90% of people over 65 are not in work and the majority are retired. Of those over 65 who want to work, most are concentrated in the 65-70 age bracket.
However as the state pension age rises, if finances become more difficult and if more employers create age friendly workplaces, we may see more people working much longer.
Nobody has a clear picture of how many pensioners would prefer to be in work. Not entitled to claim unemployment benefit or support from Jobcentre Plus, it seems once claiming the state pension, one is forgotten as a worker.
A study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission of people aged 50-59 found that around 60% would like to continue working after state pension age.
One of the problems for older jobseekers is that the labour market is very age unfriendly – despite the abolition of the default retirement age.
Working conditions that are flexible enough to support people who care for others or have health issues are needed. Healthy workplaces, opportunities to learn and supportive approaches to career changes in mid-life are just some of the things employers can put in place.
Employers need to address these challenges as workforces will become more age diverse. Managers and workers alike will have to get used to working with several generations.
This means understanding their needs, reconciling conflicts and getting the best out of the different knowledge and skill sets that different generations are likely to possess.
For the older jobseeker, present economic conditions are worrying. Thirty six per cent have been claiming unemployment benefit for more than 12 months. They are the age cohort with the biggest problem of long term unemployment.
Whilst one may understand the Government’s wish to help young people not in education, training or employment, more is needed to help the older jobseeker too.
Talk of some older people being obliged to ‘work till they drop’, is worrying. Helping them to work as long as they need and wish to do so would however be a fine objective.
TAEN is running its third 50+ Jobseeker Survey in conjunction with University of Edinburgh Business School. If you are over 50 and looking for work, share your experiences in confidence www.surveymonkey.com/s/TAENSurvey