Over 50s contribution to the job market continues to rise steadily

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Over the past five years, the total number of people in employment in the UK has grown by 6.9%, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers.

Over 50s contribution to the job market continues to rise steadily

Saga Employment Report for March 2016

Key points:

 

  • The UK-wide unemployment rate (for persons aged 16 and over) held steady for the second consecutive reading, at 5.1% between November – January 2016.

  • The unemployment rate for those aged 50-64 also remained unchanged at 3.4%.  

 

  • Figure 1 illustrates that the contribution of the over 50s to the job market has been rising steadily. Over the past five years, the total number of people in employment in the UK has grown by 6.9%, with employment for the over 50s rising faster than for younger workers. Over this time, the number of workers aged:
    • 65 or older has risen from 901,000 in the three months to January 2011 to 1.20 million over November – January 2016, a very pronounced rise of 33.1% or 298,000 employees.
    • 50-64 has risen from 7.39 million in the three months to January 2011 to 8.39 million over November – January 2016, an increase of 13.4% or just under 1 million employees.
    • 16-49 has increased by 3.5% or 737,000 employees, from 21.10 million to 21.83 million. 

 

  • The number of workers who are 50 or older has been rising steadily. Five years ago, some 8.30 million UK workers were 50 or older in the three months to January 2011. That figure had risen to 9.59 million over the three months to January 2016.

 

  • Figure 2 illustrates that the over 50s’ share of UK employment is continuing to rise. Over the three months to January 2016, we calculate that:
    • 69.5% of all employed people were 49 or younger, down from 70.0% one year previously.
    • 26.7% of all employed people were in the 50-64 age bracket, up from 26.4% one year earlier.
    • 3.8% of all employed people were 65 or older, up from 3.6% 12 months before.

 

  • Employment is not a zero-sum game and the over 50s have not been squeezing young people out of the job market. The number of employed over 50s is far lower than the number of employed 16-49-year-olds. Over November – January 2016, there were 8.39 million employed 50-64-year-olds, versus 8.16 million one year earlier. This compares to 21.83 million employed 16-49-year-olds over November – January 2016, versus 21.65 million over the same period in 2015.

 

  • Figure 3 shows that economic activity[1] amongst 50-64-year-olds has been gradually trending upward compared to economic activity amongst 18-24-year-olds, which has been generally flat. The economic activity rate amongst 50-64-year-olds is now above that of 18-24-year-olds. Over the three months to January 2016, we calculate that:
    • 72.5% of 50-64-year-olds were economically active.
    • This was above the 71.3% economic activity rate of people aged 18-24.
    • 86.1% of those in the 25-34 age bracket were economically active.
    • 86.3% of those in the 35-49 age bracket were economically active.

  

  • However, both the number of people aged 16-64 considered inactive because of retirement and the rising economic activity rate of the over 65’s reflect a falling number of retired citizens.

 

  • Figure 4 shows that the number of women aged 64 and below that are officially classified as retired has been falling considerably over recent years, with 328,000 fewer women under the age of 65 classified as retired in the three months to January this year compared with the three months to April 2010, when changes to the state pension age for women began.

 

  • This fall has not been matched by a similar fall in the number of retired men in the age group, with just 33,000 fewer men under the age of 65 classified as retired in the three months to January 2016 than there were in the three months to April 2010. This suggests that the fall is being heavily driven by the changes being made the state pension age for women that began in April 2010.

  • However, changes to the retirement age cannot account for the overall change seen in the number of people retired over the past few years. It is unfortunately the case that many over 50s may have chosen to continue working, postponing retirement, not because they wanted to, but because economic necessity in recent years forced them to.



[1] A person is classified as economically active if they are in employment; defined as a people who did some paid work in the reference week; those who had a job that they were temporarily away from (eg, on holiday); those on government-supported training and employment programmes, or unemployed; defined as those people without a job who were available to start work in the two weeks following their interview and who had either looked for work in the four weeks prior to interview or were waiting to start a job they had already obtained.

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