The Office for National Statistics estimates that 50–64-year-olds will soon account for almost three quarters of the UK’s economic inactivity, further adding to concerns of a ‘silver exodus’ of older workers leaving workplaces at a faster rate than usual and not chasing further employment opportunities.
How over-55s are leaving the workforce
- 62% of over-55s feel they have been overlooked for promotion;
- Two out of three over-50s overlooked for promotion;
- Main challenges to over-50s are lack of training and opportunities (62%);
- 1 in 5 of over-50s feels ‘misunderstood’ by employers;
- Higher pension contributions are leading factor allowing over-50s to retire early;
- Over-50s now account for ¾ of the UK’s economical inactivity – pushing salaries of junior workers up due to shortage of skills;
- 45% of over-50s actively looking for part-time, freelance roles over full-time work.
Two out of three white collar workers over the age of 55 have been overlooked for a promotion in the last year – compared to over a third (37%) of professionals under the age of 30, who have received a promotion.
Are employers driving away older workers?
The findings, from an upcoming Diversity & Inclusion report from recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, highlights how, in spite of a fiercely competitive hiring market, over 50s are being overlooked for opportunities in favour of much younger and less experienced workers.
In fact, in a survey of 6 000 professionals, a third of over 55s stated that they are not at all aware of what they need to do to receive a promotion, in comparison to just 12% of Gen Z professionals.
Chris Poole, UK Managing Director at Robert Walters, comments:
“With professional job vacancies continuing to climb at near-record levels, causing a severe skills shortage, we cannot afford to overlook such a crucial part of our workforce.
“Workers over the age of 50 come with bags of experience both professional and personal, and have a well-sought-after resilience to economic upheaval considering the number of financial or political changes they have weathered in their career.”
Over 55s leaving the workforce
Since 1971, the rate of economic inactivity across the UK has been decreasing, with the number of employed increasing decade on decade. However, post-Covid-19 rates have shot back up, and now over one fifth (21.4%) of the population are classed as economically inactive (unemployed).
Statistics from an upcoming report from Robert Walters show that Boomers (56-75 years) and Gen-Xers (41-55 years) are in a better position to take early retirement, with double the number of older professionals receiving higher pension contributions as a key workplace benefit compared to Millennials (26-40 years) and Gen-Z (aged up to 25 years).
Not only that, but the same research found that a fifth (17%) of over-50s feel their manager doesn’t take the time to understand their personal challenges – the highest percentage of all the age groups surveyed.
According to the survey, the three main challenges for over-50s progressing in their career are the lack of opportunities (41%), difficulty in balancing work and personal lives (33%) and lack of training (21%).
New age side-hustle
In place of traditional work, a new phenomenon is working its way up the age bands, with more people over 50 taking on casual work or a ‘side-hustle’ to avoid the challenges of full-time employment.
In a recent poll by Robert Walters, 45% of over-50s said that they are open and actively looking for part-time work outside of their full-time job, with freelancing, consulting roles, and project-based work aligned to their main professional skillset being the most popular part-time roles.
Increasingly we are seeing more over-50s step into the social media and influencer space, where not only are older professionals using TikTok to explain complex areas in their field of work like finance, real estate, or law, but also providing lifestyle tips to their age demographic around fitness and style.
Employers scramble for solution
The push for a focus on over-50s role in the labour market comes off the back of John Lewis’ CEO Sharon White calling for older workers to return to the workforce to prevent ‘stagflation’ – the economically dangerous triad of rising prices, rising unemployment and slow economic growth.
Recruitment consultancy Robert Walters warns that employers must act now to retain older workers if they want to avoid over-paying less experienced workers to fill a skills hole.
The top five workplace perks appealing to over-50s include:
- Flexi-hours (55%);
- Company pension contributions (40%);
- Training Opportunities (34%);
- Bonus-Schemes (30%);
- Private health insurance (32%).
Chris Poole adds:
“Employers should be concentrating on resolving the issues deterring over-50s from work. They need to compete with the allure of early retirement and more casual work options by implementing skills-sharing schemes to help stimulate promotion opportunities for mature workers, or establishing more accessible hybrid-working options to accommodate the need for flexible working.
“If we have learned anything from the past few years it is the importance of employers being receptive to the needs of employees, both current and prospective. In times of economic uncertainty and a global skills shortage, we simply cannot afford to lose our most experienced and skilled mindsets.”