Retaining older workers adds billions to economy, says report

A government report has suggested that keeping older people in work could add £55 billion per year to the UK economy.

According to Dr Ros Altmann, the government’s business champion for older workers, if everyone worked one more year this would add 1% to annual GDP.

Her report, A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit, suggests that keeping older people in employment can also boost wages and prospects for younger workers.

The report points to academic and historical evidence that shows that if the over-50s have more money to spend through being in work, this in turn boosts the economy and creates more employment opportunities for everyone.

By 2022, the number of people aged between 50 and state pension age will be 13.8 million, while the number aged between 16 and 49 will have shrunk by 700,000. This makes it imperative for businesses to make the best of the skills and experience of older workers, said Altmann.

“If the over 50s continue to leave the workforce in line with previous norms we would suffer serious labour and skills shortages, which simply could not be filled by immigration alone,” the report said.

However, too many older workers still face challenges in accessing promotion and development opportunities, according to Altmann, who called for the Government to impose new penalties against employers guilty of age discrimination.

She also called for the introduction of “mature apprenticeships”, which would suit people wishing to return to work after caring, or who wanted to change career. Altmann said the same level of funding offered for young people’s apprenticeships would markedly improve the employment prospects of the over-50s.

Responding to the report, industry body the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said it would work with charity Age UK to come up with an Older Workers Pledge, to champion best practice in the recruitment industry.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “Older workers can face unique challenges in the jobs market which recruiters can help them address. The ultimate decision as to who is employed does not lie with recruiters, however, they have a duty to ensure they are compiling diverse long and short lists, and challenging unconscious bias wherever it arises.”

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