According to figures just released from the Office of National Statistics an extra 40,000 people over the age of 65 have joined the workforce in the last three months taking the total number to 823,000. This is the highest level since the ONS started keeping these figures in 1992 and has occurred despite other widely reported statistics that show huge numbers of over 50s who want to work are unable to get jobs. If they were able to find employment, it is possible this total might double.
These figures mean that one in 12 people over 65 is now working. Some are doing so for obvious financial reasons belying the myth of baby boomers as the “golden generation”who are rolling in money. (According to Aviva, 12 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 still have a mortgage with an average amount outstanding of £59,858.)
More significantly, it is an indication that some are actively choosing to work longer.
In the Daily Telegraph, Ros Altman, ex-Government pensions adviser is reported as saying, “This is a reflection of things to come. For some people working longer is not terrible”.
In the light of negative reactions to abolishing the default retirement age and extending working lives these figures need careful consideration. More than anything else they are proof that 60 or 65, for many, is far too young to stop working. Working longer isn’t terrible, it is something they actively want to do.
Yes, in the same way that we think it would good to win the lottery, most of us think we would love to give up work if we could afford to. But what this shows is that when it comes to it, many over 60s are fit, healthy, and fully capable and want to keep on going for as long as they can. Working provides people with a purpose, value and a place in mainstream society. And after all, if you’ve always avoided living on state handouts throughout your life, why would you – as an active older person – want to do so now?