More over-50s in work 'than ever before'

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MORE than 8.2 million people aged between 50 and 64 are now in paid employment, the Government have said.

The figures are up by 235,000 in the last 12 months alone - an increase welcomed by ministers, who are keen to offset the costs associated with an ageing population.

Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann, said that "record numbers of older people are bringing their skills, talents and experience into the UK workplace, which is good news for people's incomes, their future pensions, and the overall economy."

Government research shows if everyone chose to work one year longer, gross domestic product could increase by 1% - the equivalent of £16 billion.

This money could be used to help pay for things like healthcare and boost the state pension pot, which will be much needed when the number of people living past 80 increases from 4.3% of the population to 10%.

Working later will also help people boost their own personal pension pots which, as we've discussed before, are generally woefully inadequate.

Changing demographics

The UK population isn't stable - forecasts predict that the number of older people will increase, but the number of younger people will actually decrease.

So, by 2022 there will be 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and State Pension age, but there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49.

The Government are hoping that older people will make up the shortfall. Even now, there are opportunities, says Baroness Altmann, but the problem is that businesses are being slow to capitalise on them.

There are "735,000 vacancies in the economy today", she says, but "businesses are still not making the most of the opportunities that this huge pool of talent has to offer".

Forced out

Evidence suggests that age discrimination is still rife in the workplace. A study by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) identified "more than a million people aged over 50 who are forced out of work involuntarily".

Once out of work, many find it difficult to find jobs. In fact, over-50s are the least likely group to find work again.

At the moment, say the Government, there are currently more than 1.2 million people in the 50-65 age group who are out of work.

According to Chris Ball, chief executive of The Age and Employment Network:

"If you become unemployed in your 50s, and if you remain unemployed for more than a year, you are more likely to die or start drawing your pension than get a job again."

More than capable

The ILC blame "age related bias", which is slow to disappear, despite evidence to the contrary.

For example, research shows that today's older people are more capable than ever.

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that "older adults today show higher levels of cognitive functioning and well being than older adults of the same age 20 years ago".

Other research suggests that over-65s may even outperform their younger counterparts. One study found that over-65s performed tasks more consistently than twenty-somethings did.

Over-65s working too

The ability of over-65s to carry on earning isn't being wasted. Recent figures suggest that more than 1.14 million of them now have jobs, which is an increase of 39,000 on last year.

Up until October 1st 2011, the default retirement age meant that employers were allowed to make retirement compulsory for anyone reaching the age of 65, regardless of whether they wanted to leave or not.

Government guidelines now say that "retirement age is when an employee chooses to retire".

This reflects the fact that the state pension age is receding ever further for those of us under 40. For example, people who are aged under 32 at the moment won't be able to draw a state pension until they're 68.

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