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Older Workers, Your Country Needs You

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According to a DWP press release issued to mark International Older People’s Day on 1 October, nearly a quarter of a million more people aged 65 and over have opted to stay in work since the default retirement age was abolished on 1 October 2011. There are now 1,103,000 workers aged 65 and over in work compared to 874,000 in the quarter October to December 2011 – an increase of 229,000.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“In years to come, we’ll look back at the kind of age discrimination that the default retirement age represented and wonder how it was ever allowed. Forcing people to retire at 65 might have made sense in 1925 but, in the 21st century it was nothing short of an outrage.”

However, the DWP reports wide regional variations in UK employment rates for the over 65s. The South East has the highest employment rate for those aged 65 plus at 12.5%, the lowest rate is in the North East at 6.2%.  London scores 10.9%, whilst Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland scored 8.4%, 9.1% and 8.9% respectively.

Disappointingly, a survey I have seen today says just 29% of older workers have been officially informed about their right to continue working beyond the abolished default retirement age. However, that does not seem to have stopped a marked increase in older workers since 2011. The DWP press release points out that an average earner working a year longer has the potential to boost their pension pot by around £4,500 in addition to earning an extra year’s salary.

Moreover, if everyone chose to work 1 year longer, gross domestic product could increase by 1% – the equivalent of £16 billion in 2013.  It’s not difficult to see why  the government is keen to keep people working longer. The political message is clear, for those people over age 65 who wish to stay in work, your country needs you.