Contrary to what people often believe, the 21st century workforce is not overpopulated by fresh, young and often cheaper blood, or 20-somethings fresh from university; instead, longer life expectancy, delayed pension payouts and changing demographic patterns are all contributing to the rapid growth of the over 50s in the paid employment sector.
The surprising truth is that rather than competing for jobs with younger people, older folk are beginning to outnumber their younger colleagues in greater and greater numbers. Back in the day, celebrating your 50th birthday often marked a life-turning point when personal focus shifted away from work to the possibilities of early retirement; today, reaching half a century is much more likely to signify increased attention to your career over other options.
Stats released by the Office for National Statistics highlight the quite dramatic changes in employment demographics, with almost 10 million over 50s – almost one-third of the entire group – still active in the workforce. This is the biggest number since figures were first recorded in the early 90s, when around 21% of those aged over 50 had paid work commitments.
This is not just a passing trend. According to a report commissioned by pension firm Aviva, more than one in three workers will be aged over 50 by spring 2024, replacing the current dominating group: the over 40s.
It appears that several factors play a part in influencing this situation. For many, this is a largely financial issue, as longer life expectancies conjure visions of a shrinking pension and a drastic reduction in their standard of living. This is particularly relevant to those who have already reached retirement age and are still working, as they have had less time to save enough to supplement their pension.
For others, the driving factor is more about enjoying the work than counting the contents of a pay packet. Many in this group switch careers at retirement, choosing to spend time on a ‘hobby job’ that they have always dreamed of doing, such as writing, cake decorating, DIY or gardening.
Whatever their motivation, a growing number of people are choosing to stay in the workforce beyond mandatory retirement, with figures showing that those choosing to retire ‘early’ are consistently declining.
One way or another, the over 50s are set to become the majority age group across the entire employment field and to change the way in which society views the role of worker.
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