The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just revealed some intriguing data that underscores a sweeping change in how the UK’s workforce, particularly those above 50, is evolving. According to these new figures, there’s been a 26% increase over the last decade in the number of people over 50 engaging in part-time work. As of now, a staggering 3.6 million individuals in this age group are working part-time, marking a 12% uptick since 2021.
A Changing Landscape
The workplace isn’t what it used to be. Stuart Lewis, Chief Executive of Rest Less, states that the linear career path is more or less obsolete. In today’s working environment, choices abound, from fluctuating career paths to various working patterns. No longer is work a sprint towards a sudden full-stop called retirement; it’s increasingly looking like a marathon with several pit stops. Lewis noted that this phased approach to retirement has positive impacts on health, social connections, and general well-being.
Ageism and The ‘High-Skill’ Gap
However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Dr. Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, cautions that part-time doesn’t necessarily mean quality work. She states that employers can revolutionize their talent pool by offering part-time roles with a minimum number of hours. Chris Walsh, the CEO of Wise Age, echoes this, citing institutional ageism as a hindrance for older individuals seeking full-time employment.
The Hidden Workforce
Walsh also draws attention to an often-overlooked demographic: approximately one million people who are actively seeking work but are not part of the formal employment system. These individuals are not registered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for various reasons, including receiving pension credit or having a working partner, leaving them without financial support from the DWP.
Age-Appropriate Opportunities and Flexibility
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, sums up the issue succinctly. She emphasises that part-time work should not be the only alternative for older workers. Ageism needs to be tackled in conjunction so that appropriate opportunities can be made available to this age group.
The Workers Union Says…
“In an era marked by an ageing workforce, where a third of all workers are now over 50, the need for age-inclusive policies is more critical than ever. Flexibility in work arrangements is essential, but this should not come at the cost of quality or full-time opportunities. The rise in part-time work among those aged over 50 can be viewed as a double-edged sword, offering both opportunities and challenges. As the landscape of work continues to evolve, it is vital for employers, policy-makers, and communities to be attuned to the shifting needs and aspirations of older workers.”