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Older workers have much to offer

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Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to work we go – at least it is in Watford!

According to the UK Department for Work and Pensions, the town of Watford in Hertfordshire boasts the highest employment rate amongst the 50 to 64 age bracket. Figures released recently show 89.5% of this age group in Watford are in work. Why is this important? Well, at the start of this parliament (May 2010) the UK had some 8.089 million workers who were 50 years of age or older; by June 2014 this had risen to 9.034 million and the figure is set to continue to rise.

With the abolition of the default retirement age and many more older people in work, Watford is showing the rest of the UK that older workers have much to offer. With a survey I saw earlier this week suggesting just 38 per cent of adults are retired at state pension age in the UK, and half of those working over 60 were doing so to boost their retirement income, the case, as Pension Minister Steve Webb pointed out, for “giving older workers a chance to thrive is absolutely compelling”. He went on to say that for the country and businesses to thrive “equality of employment opportunity for older workers isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it is essential.”

It is obvious to me, as well as to Steve Webb, that a person dropping out of the workforce early can have a devastating effect on their retirement income and that, like Watford, we need to make it possible to ensure workers are able to benefit from a full working life. Saga’s Employment Report for 2014 shows a rise of more than 36% in the number of over 65 year olds in work. In addition to demographic changes, proposed increases in the State Pension Age are only going to increase this trend in future years. Older workers desperate to get back to work often find it difficult to do so, especially where they have been out of work for some time.

Earlier this year the government launched ‘Fuller Working Lives’ – research highlighting the vast benefits that could be reaped by the UK economy by tackling unemployment and economic activity amongst the over 50’s. With a population where the average age is steadily increasing, and whose workers are increasingly not able to rely on long periods in defined benefit pension schemes but on the returns of defined contribution arrangements, more and more workers are choosing (or having) to work to a greater age.  It’s a problem the UK must tackle, the UK stands at a Junction – a bit like Watford!

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