More and More Britons say no to retirement #WorkingRetirement #UKPensions
10 Tuesday Sep 2013
Do you like your job? Finding an occupation you thrive in might not just be desirable but a necessity, given that the traditional life path of employment followed by a leisurely retirement is long gone.
The number of people aged 65 or over in work increased by 30,000 to more than a million in the three months to June, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics – and this is set to rocket over the coming decades. Between 2010 and 2030, it is predicted there will be a staggering 50% increase in people aged 65 and over to 15.5 million.
People are living longer, healthier, more active lives, while state retirement age is a subject of national debate in Europe, as the pressure of an ageing population affects the costs of welfare provision. France’s main employers’ union warned its government last week of the need for deeper reform to tackle a debt-ridden pension system, urging it to break the retirement age taboo.
Britain got there first. The coalition government opted to abolish compulsory retirement at 65 in 2011, with the retirement age steadily rising since the turn of the century. So how does it feel to be part of “Generation R” – past retirement age but still working? Despite meagre pension provision seeing many forced to work beyond state retirement age, many pensionable workers balk at the “crude” division of life into work and retirement. Jean Stogdon, 85, founder of charity Grandparents Plus, said the word “retire” should be scrapped as “it suggests you’re simply sitting around waiting for death”. “Many people like me want to work as they have a passion, interest and curiosity that doesn’t die with age and is an essential part of their wellbeing.”
Stogdon is one of a growing army urging employers to embrace the rising numbers of older workers as an opportunity and combat ageism in the workplace, so they are seen as assets, not liabilities.
The Prince of Wales, founder of the Prince Initiative for Mature Enterprise (Prime), aimed at helping older people set up their own business, says in the September issue of Saga magazine: “Older people tend to have the sorts of skills that can still be of enormous benefit to young people; in my opinion older people can make an enormous difference in terms of motivation and skills training.”
However, Chris Ball, 68, chief executive of the Age and Employment Network which promotes job opportunities for the UK’s “reserve army” of over-50s, stressed that covert age discrimination by recruiters remains widespread. “Meanwhile, people are being expected to wait longer for their pensions,” he says.
While regulations that came into force in October 2006 banned unjustified retirement ages of below 65, the number of over-50s who have been unemployed for more than 12 months rose by 12,000 in the three months to June to 194,000.
There is a wealth of ideas and initiatives at play in Europe to encourage people to work longer, and for employers to regard their older employees as an asset, but more needs to be done in the UK, said David Sinclair, assistant director of policy and communications at the International longevity Centre.
Along with MPs and members of the financial services industry, he is presenting findings from a policy review of European innovations in supporting longer working lives next month, pointing to various initiatives around Europe.
In Sweden, employers who recruit older workers on long-term contracts are entitled to a subsidy of up to 75% of the older worker’s salary, while the German government intends to introduce greater flexibility to working time and open up more sabbaticals for its older workforce.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government has introduced age discrimination legislation, information campaigns, age-management initiatives and policies to promote part-time and flexible working.
Sinclair said: “Without a long-term strategic focus from the UK government, we will see many more older people too young to claim a pension yet not able to access work.”
Ros Altmann, a pensions expert, believes that retirement should be “a process, not an event”. She said: “A period of part-time work and phased retirement would reduce some of the pressure on pensions, which would initially need only to top up a lower level of income, rather than replacing earnings altogether.”
However, Ashley Seager, co-founder of the International Foundation, says that the increase in jobs for older workers risks coming at the expense of younger workers, with employment for the 18-24 age group sinking by 150,000 over the last three years, according to the ONS. “While working later in life is to be encouraged, intergenerational fairness is at risk if older colleagues continue to dominate the best positions, negotiate better pay and conditions, get free travel to work with their freedom passes, while also claiming unaffordable and unsustainable pensions,” said Seager.
“During times of recession, last-in first-out still remains the order of the day, with younger workers with less experience shown the door first. We should learn from Japanese society, where older workers go part-time and mentor younger workers in order to protect the long-term viability of the business as a whole.”
When it comes to the older cadre of our 21st-century workforce, Britain still has a lot to learn.
My job is vital … and I love the mental stimulation I get’
David Shrubbs, 71, a teacher at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, said: “I’ve been teaching maths for 49 years and regard my job as vital for this country, as it’s lacking in mathematicians.” He says he qualifies for a teacher’s pension, and could afford to retire. “But I love the mental stimulation I get from my work, and I enjoy the enthusiasm of my students. Teaching is a demanding job but I’ve been fortunate to have total support from the school when it comes to carrying on working, although I’m sure others are not so lucky.”
Shrubbs enjoys being active in school sporting life. “Among other roles, I am president of the British Schools’ Cycling Association. Why would I contemplate a life of non-productive leisure?”
‘I’ve gone back to work partly because I love what I do’
Lilian Birchall, 71, a carer from Worthing, West Sussex, works part-time for Guild Care’s Time Out for Carers, giving those who look after people with dementia a day off. “I also work in social care, helping people get support services in place,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for five-and-a-half years. I used to work as a personnel manager, but was made redundant, and while I briefly retired I have gone back to work for various reasons – partly financial and partly because I love what I do.”
She often cares for people younger than herself. “It makes me realise how lucky I am. I looked after my mother with dementia, so I have a good understanding of how to help with this condition.”
‘I’m not wearing out. … I like to keep challenging myself’
Norman Lane, 69, a builder from Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, has been in the trade all his life. “I hadn’t even thought of retiring as I love the work and I’m healthy enough to do it, as many of the older workers I employ are,” he says. “In fact, a lot of the them tire the youngsters out.” He saves his basic state pension in his bank account. “While there may come a time when I think I’ve had enough, I’d hate to consider myself an old age pensioner. The building trade has been good to me and our house will be our pension plan.”
Lane is founder of a running club and, after having both hips replaced, ran from Land’s End to John O’Groats. “These days, we can just get bits of ourselves replaced, and carry on – we’re not wearing out.”
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