Extending working lives could boost the economy and address the skills gap

Bringing more people over the age of 55 into the workforce could boost the UK economy by as much as £80bn, according to Future of an Ageing Population, a new report from accountancy group PwC.

The authors say that, while the UK has made good progress in the employment rate of older people, a lot still remains to be done.

Last year, a report from the Government Office for Science highlighted the fact that the UK has an ageing population and, as the population ages, so will the workforce. This means that the productivity and economic success of the UK will be increasingly tied to that of older workers.

“Enabling people to work for longer will help society to support growing numbers of dependants, while providing individuals with the financial and mental resources needed for increasingly long retirements,” the report said. “Supporting fuller and longer working lives, removing barriers to remaining in work, and enabling workers to adapt to new technologies and other fundamental changes to the world of work will be critical to the nation’s economic wellbeing.”

Employers are increasingly taking up the challenge of investing in their older workers, with large companies including Aviva, Barclays and the Co-operative Group signing up to a UK Government pledge to employ 12% more older workers by 2022, Chronicle Live reports.

So what practical measures can employers take to prepare for longer working lives?

Carol Stubbings, Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organisation practice, explained: “For employers, flexible working and partial retirement options can pay dividends, as can redesign of the workplace to meet the needs of older workers. Flexible working policies can incentivise women to remain in work longer, so having the right policies in place will increase the employment rate of those over 55 and may help to reduce the gender pay gap which is shown to increase with age.

“The life experience of older workers and the skills they have acquired throughout their careers make them hugely valuable to the modern workforce. To build on this, leading employers will offer older workers opportunities for development, including reverse mentoring schemes on digital skills and apprenticeships.”

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that encouraging people to stay in work for longer will have a negative impact on the employment of young workers.

“The clear positive correlation between country scores on our Young Workers and Golden Age Indices suggests that the employment of older workers does not crowd out younger workers” said John Hawksworth, Chief Economist at PwC and author of the report.

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