15.04.13

Older People Must Keep on Working as Britain 'Runs Out of Workers'

Employers are being urged to change their attitudes to employing older workers as the Government limit the number of immigrants allowed into Britain, amid concerns that the country is running out of workers.

An imminent shortage of qualified staff means businesses must be more open-minded to employing to employing people in their 50s and 60s, with increasing numbers of people working until the age of 70.

Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, told The Daily Telegraph he regarded older workers as “an untapped resource”. He continued;

“People have often said, ‘how are we going to tackle ageist attitudes amongst employers?’ The demographics are going to sort that out for us.

“Over time there will be a whole set of jobs where employers need experienced older workers and a firm that doesn’t change its attitude to older workers will be left behind.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that employers will need to fill 13.5 million vacancies over the next 10 years, however there will be only 7 million school and college leavers during that time.

In a bid to support employers to build a ‘multi-generational workforce’, the DWP has published a new guide advising employers on hiring and retaining older workers.

Currently 27 per cent of the workforce is aged 50 and over but as people continue to live longer and keep fit for longer, many are looking to extend their working lives, with over half of workers aged 55+ planning to work past state pension age.

Steve Webb explained that the Government’s intention was not to force people to work “into their seventies and beyond” but instead prevent older workers from dropping out of the workforce unnecessarily.

He went on to add that there was no evidence that older workers were taking jobs from young graduates and school leavers.

“It is not the case that if we enable firms to employ older workers this just shuts out the young. It keeps experienced productive workers in the workforce and that is good news.”

Although almost 90 per cent of employers believe older workers can bring skills and benefits to the business, people aged 50 and over are least likely to be recruited once there are out of work. Indeed, the latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics show the overs 50s are still the highest proportion in any age group to have been unemployed for 12 months of more (45.2 per cent).

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