Saga Report on Generation W - Work : employment and the over 50s

Tuesday 17 March 2015

• 83% are working to support the lifestyle they want • More than half 56% work for the social benefits it brings • Self-employment a lifestyle choice, not a forced change say over 50s

Saga Report on Generation W - Work : employment and the over 50s

Hard working over 50s are delaying their retirement for longer in order to pay for their lifestyle (83%) and in fact many are choosing to show their entrepreneurial flair by choosing to become self-employed - a comprehensive new report from Saga has revealed. 

Over the last four years the number of over 50s working has increased by 12% bringing them to just over 9 million of the workforce. 

The report highlights how the most remarkable increase up to November 2014 is amongst those aged 65+, whose numbers in work have risen by more than a quarter since the Default Retirement Age was abolished in 2011. 

Saga’s detailed study of employment among the over 50s – Generation Work – draws on the results of a Saga Populus poll of 11,168 over 50s and analysis of economic and employment data carried out the independent Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).  

The research found that a key reason the over 50s are remaining in work was to support their lifestyles – with 83% of working respondents citing this; more than half, 56% also said they worked for the social aspects.

Saga director of communications Paul Green said:  “We hear so much about Generation X and Generation Y; Saga’s report reveals the over 50s are really Generation W – generation Work.

“No government or employer can afford to ignore the contribution of the working older generation.  Our report predicts that the number of over 50s in employment will increase to over 10.7 million by 2020.  Attitudes and policies will need to change to reflect that.”

The Generation Work report also identifies a darker side to the labour market’s view of over 50s workers which shows a growing number experiencing long-term unemployment.  

The number of over 50s in long-term unemployment as a proportion of total long-term unemployment grew by 20% between October and December 2010 and the same months in 2014. By contrast the share of people in long-term unemployment in the 25-49 age group fell by 14% in the same time period.  In 2014, 356,000 people aged over 50 were unemployed.

These findings suggest that the over 50s are less likely to get back into work if they find themselves unemployed, compared with younger generations and this problem could deepen without policy interventions.

The report highlights a number of remarkable facts about over 50s employment:

• Many over 50s are delaying their retirement plans with 23% reporting that they plan to retire later than they expected to five years ago and 18% saying that they have put their retirement plans on hold, indefinitely; only 8% report that they plan to retire earlier than they expected to 5 years ago. 

• Self-employment is increasing significantly with the numbers rising by 23% among the over 50s and 45% for the 65+ in the four years to June 2014 compared to 13% for people in the 25-49 age group; older workers said they enjoyed the independence that self-employment brings.

• The median gross weekly earnings of workers aged between 50 and 59 is £556 - 7% more than the gross weekly earnings of the average employee. But this falls to £491 for works aged over 60 - 5% less than the UK average.

• In 2014 36% of all public sector workers are aged over 50. With cuts in government spending expected over the next five years, many over 50s will be exposed to public sector job cuts.


Mr Green continued:  “The Saga report raises a range of issues for both government and employers.  Employers need to ensure the over 50s are not denied training so they can remain skilled and productive in the jobs that they hold.”

“The Government must ensure that unemployed over 50s can be supported back into work through schemes that help match over 50s’ skills to business needs and encourage employers to accept older workers.  More help is needed with employment and training measures including over 50s apprenticeship schemes.

“Saga is also urging the Government to abolish national insurance contributions for employers who take on workers who have been unemployed long-term.

“In addition, more training and advice on setting up a business and start-up funding would tap into the desire for greater self-employment.”





Editors notes:

This report has been produced by Cebr, an independent economics and business research consultancy established in 1992. The study was led by Scott Corfe, Head of Macroeconomics with analytical and research support from Cebr Economist Rajini Jayasuriya. The views expressed herein are those of the authors only and are based upon independent research by them. London, March 2015


Populus interviewed 11,168 Saga respondents, all aged 50+, online between 17 and 23 February 2015. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules; for more information see

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