The Platinum Pound, a new report by cross-party think-tank Demos and supported by Age Action Alliance member Anchor, has revealed the UK economy could unlock £6.6bn a year by making staying in work more inclusive. The report reveals an additional £1.2bn a year could be unlocked by returning to pre-pandemic rates of later life volunteers.
These figures come amidst the cost-of-living crisis, rising inflation, skills shortages and recruitment and retention challenges across many industries. With a rapidly ageing population and 800,000 older people who want to re-enter the workforce, removing barriers to later life working can futureproof our economy and unlock the potential of our ageing population.
In response Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for people in later life, is encouraging businesses to sign the Age-friendly Employer Pledge to make workplaces more age-inclusive.
The number of UK workers aged 50-64 has fallen by 182,000 since 2019 – equivalent to one sixth of current job vacancies. The Platinum Pound report reveals the UK is an outlier in this regard – the median OECD country saw a 2% increase in later life workforce participation since the pandemic began. Effective policy, that focuses on keeping people in work for longer if they wish to do so, is needed to reverse this decline and address entrenched barriers to age-inclusive workplaces.
Yet the report identifies that hundreds of thousands of older workers are at risk of leaving work due to a lack of flexible working, a lack of support if made redundant, poor workplace experiences, not feeling valued and age discrimination.
Alarmingly, 330,000 retirees stopped working because they couldn’t access flexible working – equivalent to 25% of the vacancies in the UK economy today. Additionally, over 1 million older people have experienced age discrimination at work.
In response to the findings, Anchor is urging businesses to sign the Age-friendly Employer Pledge to make workplaces more inclusive, and is calling on government to remove barriers to working in later life to bolster our economy.
Policy recommendations from the Platinum Pound report include:
- Mandate large public and private sector employers to provide redundancy employment support programmes for employees over 50 years old
- Consult on mandating large public and private sector employers to train managers on how to manage older workers and improve cross-age team working
- A tax-free £1,000 Priority Jobs Bonus – for all workers over 55 working in shortage occupations and earning less than £50,000 a year
Sarah Jones, Chief Executive of Anchor, says: “The message is simple – our ageing population has incredible potential that is being missed. We must reverse the social and economic impacts of older people being excluded or overlooked to ensure they are supported to remain in work for as long as they choose.
“As an Age-friendly Employer, we see first-hand the benefits of later life working and the invaluable skills and experiences older workers bring. We urge more organisations to sign the Age-friendly Employer Pledge. Government must listen to the report’s findings and take action to empower our ageing population, unlocking both their potential and economic benefits.”
The report also reveals that, by meeting the same levels of later life workforce participation as countries such as Australia, £9.6 billion a year could be unlocked. By meeting the same levels of participation as countries such as Germany, over £30 billion a year could be unlocked. Before the pandemic, the UK’s later life workforce participation rates were higher than Australia, and in 2008, the UK’s rates were higher than those in Germany.
Andrew O’Brien, Director of Policy and Impact at Demos, adds: The UK is facing severe labour shortages and slow economic growth. One of the ways we can tackle these twin challenges is through helping older people to stay in work. Billions could be added to the UK economy if we can get this right. The government needs to send a clear signal to businesses and society that we value the work of older people.”