People aged 50 years and over who work entirely from home are more likely to be put off retirement, compared with those not working from home.
That’s according to data released by the Office for National Statistics into the impact of working from home on older workers, which also found that the percentage of older workers planning to work from home post-pandemic is higher than the proportion who worked from home before Covid-19 struck.
Older staff working exclusively from home were more likely to say they were planning to retire later (11%) compared with those who did not work from home (5%).
The researchers found that in 2019, 13.8% of 50-year-olds were economically inactive but by 64 years more than half (51.9%) were economically inactive.
“For those people who can afford it, early exit from the labour market may be voluntary, however, others leave because of ill-health or caring responsibilities,” said the report.
“This not only has implications for the future financial security of individuals (who will have lost potential earnings and contributions to pension pots), it also has implications for the wider economy.”
If the employment rate of people aged 50-64 years matched that of those aged 35-49, it would add £88bn or 5% to GDP.
The ONS said it appears that working from home has some benefits for older workers and may enable some to stay in the labour market for longer, but that working from home has not been an option for all.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, in January and February 2020, 66.8% of workers aged 50 years and over said they never worked from home. Of these, 41.5% switched to working from home “sometimes, often or always” at some point during the pandemic (April 2020 to March 2021).
The report’s authors said that those who exit the labour market early and older workers who did not switch to working from home during the pandemic had similar characteristics. They tended to have poorer health, to live in deprived areas and have lower or no qualifications. “Therefore, while increased working from home among older workers may benefit some, inequalities may become further entrenched,” said the researchers.
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