Work until you drop. That is a familiar tabloid newspaper headline. But it is becoming all too much of a reality for many of the baby boomer generation.
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that record numbers of older people – particularly women – are now working beyond the age of 60.
Economic factors are forcing many people to delay - if not abandon - dreams of early retirement. Inadequate income following divorce, the death of a partner or the need to help with the costs of caring for an elderly parent can mean going back to work instead of enjoying more leisure time.
But for many, there is a more positive reason for going back to work when most of us head for the garden. They are reluctant to stop work completely at the cliff edge of 60 or 65. They miss the stimulation of the work environment and dread the prospect of empty hours of retirement stretching ahead.
Others choose to return to work for pin money – saving up for something special such as a holiday or new TV.
Women take the lead in working over 60
Official figures show there are now 850,000 women over 60 in employment when they might traditionally have expected to have stopped working. This is the highest figure since records began – and the number of older women workers is growing faster than any other age group.
Over the 12 months to October last year, a further 63,000 women aged 60 or above took a job, accelerating an upward trend that began around 2003, when fewer than 600,000 worked beyond 60.
There are now twice as many women as men over state retirement age in work – though their official retirement age is at present five years earlier than for men. Of the 175,000 jobs created over the past three months, more than half have been filled by people aged over 50.
And the greying trend is set to continue. By 2020, a third of the workforce will be aged over 50 and by 2025 almost half the adult population in the UK will be 50 and over. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, there is no single reason but a range of factors, “both demographic and practical”.
The population in their twenties and thirties is falling – and from 2010 the number of young people reaching working age will begin to fall by 60,000 a year; many people now enter work much later after full-time education stretching into their twenties; and people are living longer, staying healthy and wanting to remain active for longer.
What are the drivers that are keeping people in work for longer? Read on...