What are our older workers doing?

Getting the over 50s back to work looks as challenging as Tony’s graphic.

Last month , I wrote about the missing 600,000 over fifties who seem to have disappeared from the labour market. I was alerted to this by economist Tony Wilson and now he’s back, looking at the latest ONS Data on their whereabouts.

I think we need some caution here,  a large proportion of the 50-65 age group are affluent and have assets to fall back on. Many are in married or civil partnerships and are happy to share wealth and live off a partner’s income. All the same, it is worrying that so many people (especially women) are not economically productive or feathering their retirement nests.

I suspect that many of my generation are finding that the rhythm of 30-40 years work has been broken. We are getting used to life at home and do not see any urgent reason to be economically productive.

This is worrying. It suggests that the hospital waiting lists are impacting on our capacity to work and this certainly seems more likely for older people.

The prognosis for the long-term sick and disabled as they head towards later life is not good. This is where the financial and physical wellbeing issues are most concerning. To what extent the pandemic has contributed to this remains to be seen.

I suspect that this is also a result of a fall in economic migrants since Brexit. Hopefully we can do both refugees and our economy a failure and accommodate a large number of UK-rainians.  See my recent blog.

This supports my theory that people are looking at the minimum normal retirement age as a landmark and using retirement savings as a bridge to the state pension – rather than an income for life. This is tricky if you are trying to claim universal credit, which may explain why so many of the over 55s aren’t appearing on the official jobless figures

This again suggests that the labour shortfall is most acute for the lower paid. I support a further  increase in the minimum wage while calling for immigration restrictions for refugees to be eased (not just for those from the Ukraine.

It would be interesting to see how the big workplace pensions see this. I would expect to see a large number of  the over 50s moving to “deferred” status as they leave employment and many claiming their pots. If any of the policy people for NOW, Peoples Pension, Nest, Cushon or Smart of the large insurers are reading, it would be great to hear your stories. Here’s how Patrick Thompson, who works for Phoenix Standard Life sees it.

Being outside the workplace and not registered for benefits is fine so long as you are affluent, have your full state pension entitlement and have a financial plan for later life. In my experience such plans often relies on the numbers coming in on the lottery, or similar windfalls.

If, as I suspect, many of the 700,000 older “non-workers” are sitting at home and living off the windfall of a pension pot, then we do have a workplace issue that is quite new and unexpected.

Thanks to Tony Wilson and Patrick Thompson for their threads and thanks to the ONS for the underlying data

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to What are our older workers doing?

  1. Brian G says:

    It would be interesting to see employers react to the top reason that would entice older people back to work ie “for social company or enjoyment of the job”. Maybe if more employers realised that people do not work for their glorious leader’s benefit and instead worked for their own objectives, then they could create more enjoyable work environments. We no longer live in Victorian times, and thatcherism has been shown up for all its selfish, greedy limitations. People like people more than they like money. So change the work environment, and change the culture. This will benefit all ages not just over 50s.

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