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How will an ageing population change the way we work?

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Our working lives are becoming longer as the UK population ages. Work will be a critical part of the how the UK adapts to having an older population.

The Foresight Future of an Ageing Population project provides policy-makers with the best evidence and analysis of the main challenges that result from older and extended working lives.

The following five pieces of evidence from the project describe the current picture of UK employment for older workers, and the challenges people face working later in life.

1. Employment rates drop sharply for people who are employed by others as they reach their late 50’s, whereas the decline in the rate of self-employment is more gradual.

Enabling men and women to access self-employment opportunities may extend their working lives.Employment rate by type of employment and by age in the UK, 2014. There is a sharp decline in employment rate from around 52 years for people who are employees. There is a gentler decline in the employment rate of self-employed people from about the same age.


2. Employment rates among those aged 65-69 for both men and women have increased since the mid 1990’s.

Factors including better health, improved skills and the enabling of flexible working are likely behind this trend. It is hard to predict how long these factors will continue to drive this increase.UK employment rates of older men and older women 1968 to 2013. There is a slight increase from around 1990 in both the male and female employment rates.


3. There are significant regional differences in employment of older people, with men aged 65+ in London and the South East over 40% more likely to be in employment than those in Scotland or Yorkshire and the Humber.

Policies to extend working lives are therefore likely to require a strong regional focus.Regional employment rates of men and women aged 65+, 2016. The employment rate is highest in London and the South East. Lowest in Scotland, and Yorkshire & the Humber.


4. Once out of the workforce, older workers are more likely to remain unemployed.

Of those seeking work over the age of 50, 46% of men and 38% of women had been doing so for more than one year.Proportion of the unemployed that have been unemployed for at least a year by age group. The proportion of men and women who have been unemployed for at least a year is higher for those aged 50 years plus.


5. People with caring responsibilities are more likely to work part time, retire or be economically inactive than those without – and demand for care is likely to continue to increase.

Enabling people to balance their care responsibilities with work may be critical to the retention in the workforce.

5 - Employment status for adult carers and all adults in the UK, 2013 to 2014. The percentage of people in full time or part time employment is lower for carers than all people.


Read Foresight’s Future of an Ageing Population final report to find out more about how work will change as the population of the UK ages.

Sign up for email updates from this blog to read more information from the Future of an Ageing Population project and other Foresight projects.

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