We’re living, on average, almost a decade longer than our grandparents. Quite rightly this is something to celebrate, but at the same time it raises important questions about our changing society and our perception of being ‘old’.
Latest evidence shows one in four men and one in three women reaching state pension age have not worked for five years or more. That’s a phenomenal amount of experience and skills going unused in our labour market – valuable resources that could benefit business and our younger generations.
Currently, more than 160,000 people in Great Manchester aged 50-64 are not in work, and the North West has the lowest percentage of older workers in England outside of London. So, this is a particularly important issue for the area.
Working longer can make a significant difference to someone’s income. By delaying retirement until 65 instead of 55, someone with average earnings could earn £280,000 more and might increase their pension pot by over 50%.
Working can also have a huge positive impact of physical and mental health. It’s the social side of work that is often hard to replace, and the opportunity to be part of something bigger.
Older workers also make good business sense. Employers, particularly those who have a lot of physically demanding roles, can be quick to dismiss older workers in favour of younger ones. But older workers can help teach new generations or perhaps play important managerial roles.
Today, the Government and industry came together to launch our new ‘Fuller Working Lives’ strategy to encourage employers to think more smartly about the value of older workers and to hold on to this resource.
But it’s not only businesses that should think differently. For older workers – if you’re fit, able and keen to work, why not extend your career, or take the opportunity to pursue a new one? We’ve already made some key changes by removing the default retirement age – ensuring most people can now choose when to retire – and introducing the right for everyone to request flexible working.
I know that thinking about a new career or even considering staying in your current job for longer can seem very daunting. Many of you may have been in the same role for a long time, perhaps doing very physically demanding work, and won’t be sure about your next steps. But there are options available to you, especially through part-time or flexible working. Both are excellent ways to help you stay in work.
There is plenty of advice out there. Why not visit Jobcentre Plus which can guide you on the requirements and qualifications you may need for any new role? Or even speaking with friends and work colleagues can help you realise the best course of action.
Last month my colleague, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, announced a cash boost of more than £130 million for Greater Manchester to help create jobs and support businesses. We’re providing this support to help people, including older workers, to reach their full potential.
For all employers my message is clear – if you’re quick to overlook people based on their age then you’re missing out on talented workers with valuable experience.
I encourage all people to take full advantage of the opportunities that work can bring.
We’re all younger for longer and so we will be able to extend our careers and take up new opportunities.
For more information go on GOV.UK and search for ‘Fuller Working Lives’.