Is working for longer the new norm?

How long do you want to continue working? Is the idea of a cut-off date for employment obsolescence now obsolete itself? An interesting study from the Scottish Widows Centre for the Modern Family (CMF) focuses on the increased number of over 65s continuing to work into later life and raises some thought-provoking questions.

The report highlights a number of issues across generations. With longer life expectancies and ’50 is the new 40’ attitudes, the idea of a set retirement point that suits everyone looks increasingly old fashioned. But what impact will both the desire and necessity to keep working have on the workplace and those postponing their retirement?

Since the abolition of the default retirement age in October 2011, there has been a 26% rise in workers over 65 in employment to October 2014. The number stood at 1.1 million, not counting the 400,000 classed as self-employed. Some are compelled to continue to work by their financial circumstances, while for others it’s a lifestyle choice – why stop when you’re enjoying it?

But while working beyond 65 appears to be an accepted concept for the general public, there are some key issues:

  • Younger workers worry that their chances in the labour market may be curtailed by the continuing presence of the older workforce.
  • While family members understand the well-being benefits to their older relatives of continuing to work, they also worry about the impact on their health.
  • The majority of those working over 55 have either not fully planned for their retirement or just prefer to continue working, especially men.
  • Employers don’t seem to have acknowledged the trend or have adapted to supporting the needs of older workers.

Attitudes in the study focus groups varied from believing that older workers stood in the way of younger colleagues and could be out of touch with new developments and technologies, to those valuing the contribution of knowledge and experience and ability to mentor younger colleagues.

Working life is changing, but employers, employees and social and governmental infrastructure are yet to catch up. In the work-life balance debate, this is clearly an issue that’s going to grow in importance for individuals, families and their advisers.

One other interesting statistic: 38% of men want to work past 65 because they like their job. Only 12% of women think the same. But that’s a whole other discussion.


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