There are now almost one million more workers aged 65 and above in the UK labour market than there were at the beginning of the century, new data analysis from the Centre for Ageing Better reveals.
More than one in nine (11.5%) are now working past their 65th birthday in this country which is double the one in 20 (5.2%) working in 2000, analysis of official ONS Labour Market stats by the Centre for Ageing Better reveals.
Workers aged 65 and above are predominately self-employed and working part-time but there is a growing number continuing in full-time employment up to and beyond the state pension age.
A surprisingly high proportion are also on zero-hours contracts, the second highest in fact after 16-24-year-olds, the new analysis reveals.
Of the 5.4 million additional workers in employment since 2000, almost 1 million (976,000) are 65 and over – making it the age group with the second largest increase after the 3.1 million additional workers in the 50-64 age bracket.
There were 457,000 workers aged 65 and above in 2000, and now there are 1.43 million workers in the same age group with 566,000 of these additional workers due to the increase in the size of the population aged 65+ over the last 23 years. The increase in state pension age has also influenced employment rates, especially for women.
Dr Karen Hancock, Research and Policy Officer at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “These figures show once again the ever-growing importance of older workers to the economy in filling labour and skills shortages. Workers with up to 50 years of workplace experience have an incredible wealth of knowledge to share and which will be to the benefit of employers, co-workers and customers.
“Around half of the substantial growth in numbers of 65+ workers since 2000 is down to demographics and the growth in the older population. The raising of the state pension age for men and women has also been a factor in increasing employment rates. Moving the goalposts on planned retirement dates may have compelled some to continue working into their late 60s to help their financial situation.
“But the increase also includes a growth in older workers who feel well enough to continue working and who want to continue reaping the financial and wellbeing benefits of remaining in work.”
The ONS analysis also reveals that older workers are more likely to be self-employed than younger age groups with workers aged 60 and above now accounting for one in six (17.4%) of all self-employed workers in the country in 2022 – up from one in nine (11.2%) in 2011.
On average around one in eight (13.2%) of all workers are self-employed but these proportions rise to almost one in four (23.2%) for workers aged 60-69; almost one in two (45.3%) for those aged 70-79 and more than one in two (56.5%) for workers aged 80 and above.
Although the majority working beyond 65 do so on a part-time basis, the proportion of employed people in this age group working full-time has increased from one in four (25%) in 2000 to more than one in three (34%) in 2023.
Almost 80,000 workers aged 65+ were employed on zero-hours contracts in Jan-Apr 2023, accounting for more than one in 20 (5.5%) of all those in employment in this age group.
Only workers aged 16-24 (11.6%) have a higher proportion working on zero hours contracts.
Luke Price, Senior Research and Policy Manager for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Working past state pension age is becoming increasingly common, but it should be a choice. For those who want to do it and can find employment that suits them, it can have positive health, wellbeing and financial outcomes.
“However, statistics alone do not tell us anything about the quality of the employment of this age group. And we do not know how many more people aged 65 and above would like to work but find age discrimination a barrier to securing employment because you can’t register as unemployed once you’ve reached state pension age.
“There will be some working past state pension age out of financial necessity as they find their private pensions to be inadequate.
“And there are many who will stop working before state pension age because of ill-health or caring responsibilities. Some of these people may wish to continue working for longer, and potentially could do with better health support from employers and more flexible employment conditions to fit around caring responsibilities.”