Older Workers

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham PPS (Mr Mike O'Brien, Solicitor General), Law Officers' Department

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of the number of workers aged 60 and over.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Work)

There are an estimated 2,052,000 people in work aged 60 or over in Great Britain, 16.8 per cent. of the population in the age group.


These estimates are not based on the same total population estimates as headline ONS estimates for employment in the same period, but this is unlikely to have much effect on the aforementioned figures.


Labour Force Survey, Q4 2006. The Labour Force Survey is a survey of the population of private households, student halls of residence and NHS accommodation.

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Joyce Glasser
Posted on 18 Mar 2007 12:56 pm (Report this annotation)

It would be interesting to know how many people over 65 are working. I predict we would see a large drop from the number of people "over 60" working, primarily because of the pension age of 65, and now, the National Default Retirement Age of 65. In any event, 16% of any age group working is far too small. With poverty among the over 60s being a significant figure, and half the population estimated to have saved too little for retirement, we should see more than 16% over 60s working in some capacity.

The National Default Retirement Age will ensure the percentage of over 60s working remains at 16% if not lower. It will also ensure there are more forced retirements since the NDRA is all about forcing people to retire and then allowing employers legally to refuse to look at applications from candidates over 64.5 years of age.

The fact that 16% percent of the over 60 age group is working also indicates that these 2 million people are the group that will most likely suffer from the new Age Regulations. They will be denied almost all protection from claims of age discrimination in employment from people over 65. Once those between 60-64 turn 64.5, they have no right to sue for age discrimination as long as the dismissal procedure prescribed in the Age Regulations is followed. Nor will people over 64.5 have any right to sue on grounds of age discrimination if their application forms for a new job are tossed in the bin.

It is necessary in any event to have the figure of the number of people working over age 65 if the government is to attempt to monitor the effect of its Age Regulations and of the introduction of the discriminatory National Default Retirement Age. It is still not clear however how such an evaluation will be possible as the government will not know how many people over 65 would have been working had the government abolished fixed retirement ages.

Kenneth Armitage
Posted on 18 Mar 2007 1:54 pm (Report this annotation)

According to figures produced for the report Pensions: Challenges and Choices (LTS Spring 2004), the number of people in employment beyond age 60 drops dramatically after age 56. Between the ages of 24 and 56 statistics show that 85% of males are in employment and, with some fluctuations presumably that take account of average child-bearing years, between 68% and 80% of women. At age 56 the number of males in employment drops dramatically to 60% by age 60 and for women it drops to 40% by age 60. And according to the ONS there are just under 8 million people of working age who are economically inactive - of these 2.3 million are looking after family, 2.2 million are long-term sick and 1.7 million are students in some for of education programme. That still leaves 1.7 million people of working age, many over age 50, who are inactive because they are unable to gain appropriate and meaningful employment, allegedly because of ageism or ageist attitude in UK Plc. Academic studies have shown that “Ageism is the most common form of discrimination in the UK”, and that, “Of all the individual instances of discrimination, 41% relate to age; this rises to 56% of all instances of discrimination for people over 55.” A study conducted by the University of Kent in 2005 found that, “Ageism is the most widely experienced form of prejudice in Britain." This is supported by the information contained in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for 2007, including the 20 Best Big Companies to work for 2007 (mostly Financial and Professional service companies). In the Best 20 companies 70% had an average age under 35 and the other 30% had an average age under 40; and, in the Best 100 companies to work for 59% had an average age under 35 and the other 41% had an average age under 45. Perhaps this is one reason why there is pressure on pension schemes, the fact that too many companies remove many older workers as they approach 50 or 55 or 60.