Author Archives: Christopher Brooks

Are people really ‘over-saving’ for retirement?

167x167_calculator

Defining what makes an ‘adequate’ retirement income is always going to be tricky. It’s inherently difficult to know exactly what people’s spending choices and needs are likely to be, or how they will adjust to stopping work.

Add in the changing nature of retirement, where increasing numbers of people are working past their State Pension age, it becomes even harder.

New paper, new ideas?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) recently published a paper investigating a new method of looking at retirement incomes. It identifies an ‘optimum’ level of pension saving for each couple household. Instead of income band, this is based on a range of personal circumstances (e.g. number of children) and an
assessment of spending patterns. It then evaluates whether people have saved below, at, above or the ‘optimal’ level required to achieve a comparable standard of living for their retirement. Continue reading

An older worker, but just as productive

Older worker

If you want to raise a few eyebrows, there’s nothing like busting a stereotype.

Older workers are perceived in many (usually negative) ways, and such stereotypes are often deeply ingrained with the nation’s psyche. However it’s often unfair to apply them to the majority of people, which is why it’s important we challenge them.

This blog dissects just one: that as people age, their health gets worse and cognitive ability declines making them less productive in the workplace.

Our new briefing, which draws its conclusions based on a wide range of research evidence, explains in detail why this view in incorrect.

Continue reading

Making the Work Programme work for older jobseekers

It has been widely reported that that the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, was failing to help the unemployed back into work and was accused by the Labour Party of being ‘worse than doing nothing’. While we don’t agree with this view, it’s clear the Programme has had some teething problems, particularly for the over 55s involved.

To quickly re-cap, the Work Programme is a major policy costing between £3 and £5 billion over five years, aimed primarily at the long-term unemployed. It uses private companies (‘contractors’) to help people return to work. And to clarify a common misunderstanding, it is not the same as the different but much talked about scheme where jobseekers do unpaid work experience at a business or other organisation!

NOT WORKING FOR OLDER JOBSEEKERS

Age UK has now had a detailed look at the results by age group to find out how successful it was for older jobseekers and  published a briefing.

While the Work Programme came in below expectations for everyone, it is even worse for the over 55s (see chart below. This shows the proportion of people sent on to the Work Programme who entered and remained in a job for at least three months).

The over-55s suffer a drop in successful job outcomes of nearly 30 per cent compared to the average for the under-55s (interestingly, the 50-54 age group have the same outcomes as 45-49s). The age profile of the job success rate is shown below.

This is a huge shortfall and represents a huge problem because the Work Programme appears to be failing to tackle the barriers faced by older jobseekers – it is simply not offering sufficient support.

job-outcome-chart

OVER 55s STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK

For anyone who loses their job once over the age of 50, it can be very difficult to move back into work. So it would be expected that the Work Programme would be less successful for older jobseekers, right? Well yes, and no.

Because the Work Programme is a labour market tool designed to improve job outcomes, it’s possible to change how it operates. Doing so could correct the natural imbalances found within the labour market which almost always harm the prospects of disadvantaged groups, including older jobseekers.

Our briefingrecommends several ways of changing the Work Programme without hampering contractors’ freedom to operate as they choose.
This could be by paying contractors more to place over 55s into jobs or by moving people to the Work Programme after six months unemployment rather than 12 – giving the right support earlier can help, although ‘right’ is the key word here. Measures such as these could make all the difference.

But it seems clear that if nothing changes, older jobseekers will continue to find themselves cut out of the workforce, often permanently, while being expected to wait longer before being able to draw their state pension.

Read  the full Age UK briefing ‘The Work Programme and older jobseekers’

Find out more about Work and Learning on the Age UK website

A means to many ends: experiences of flexible working

Being able to work flexibly can have a hugely positive impact on peoples’ work, and their personal lives too.

Today we’re launched our new report, A Means to Many Ends,  which looks at older workers’ experiences of flexible working, which looks at why 50+ workers want to use flexible working options, how they work in practice, and what barriers people typically face when they try to work flexibly.

What is flexible working?

Although it’s very difficult to define, it’s worth considering what we mean by flexible working. We see it as being a whole range of options, for example flexi-time, working from home or working a four-day week. But crucially it can only be considered flexible when  the individual either instigates changes or personally benefits.

The report finds that older workers want flexibility for a variety of reasons – for example, to meet caring responsibilities, wind down to retirement, or to manage a health condition.

Flexible working is usually very positive, enabling people to remain in employment and make ends meet, balancing personal commitments with work.

And all this is not to mention the benefits for their employers of retaining skilled staff, having a more committed and loyal workforce, or perhaps being able to mentor younger workers.

Despite the benefits too many employers still seem reluctant to even consider flexibility, which is bad news for both parties – to make sure that everyone who wants to work is able to do so, a culture change is needed, with renewed emphasis on the mutual benefits of flexible working.

Barriers

There are, however, significant barriers to accessing flexible working.

Continue reading