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Older workers hit by declining working hours

Published on 27 April 2017 11:01 PM

Despite the increasing number of older people in the UK workforce, they have been hit by cuts to working hours related to external factors.

  • Since the recession in 2008, employment rates have been increasing for older people
  • However, Age UK's report shows that both older men and women have been affected by cuts to their working hours
  • For some age groups, hours have been cut by over 12 hours per week
  • Negative external factors like the rise of the 'gig economy' are likely to be the cause of this trend.

Older workers in complex situation

Age UK's latest ‘Behind the headlines' report warns that the rising employment rate for older workers does not reflect how easy it is for them to stay in paid, secure work. It has found that older workers are in fact in a much more complex and challenging situation and urges for existing policy to be reviewed.

Why the employment rate does not tell the whole story about working longer (PDF 556 KB)

Age UK is urging policymakers not to ignore the number of hours worked, which has declined for both male and female older workers after the 2008 recession. Similar countries have noticed the same pattern as the UK.

This is especially important as within weeks, the Government is set to respond to John Cridland CBE's independent report into the State Pension Age, published in March.

All ages affected by reduction in hours

Changes to working hours since 2008 recession according to age group:

  • Men aged 50-54: 29% drop in hours worked
  • Women aged 50-54: 18% drop in hours worked
  • Men aged 60-64: 22% drop in hours worked

For men aged 50-54, the group affected most, this equates to a 12.25 hour reduction in hours worked each week.

Reduction in hours unlikely to be a choice

Analysis in the report shows that this worrying decline began before the 2008 global recession, so it is not the cause of these trends.

For some people, gradually scaling down working hours could be a choice as they approach retirement or juggle more responsibilities, but the report suggests that this is unlikely to be the case for the majority of people. The rise of insecure employment where people earn an income by undertaking small and low-skilled tasks is often described as the ‘gig economy.' The report describes the gig economy as a key reason why working hours are in decline.

Fewer hours mean lower income for older people

If older workers work fewer hours, they will earn less. Age UK is concerned about this as it will make it harder for them to maintain their standard of living before they reach State Pension Age. They will also find it harder to save money to enjoy a comfortable retirement once they stop working.

Similar to the advice of John Cridland, who recently published a review into the State Pension Age, Age UK is advising the Government to take the following steps to support older people:

  • Improve re-training opportunities
  • Increase the practical and financial support on offer for carers and people with severe health problems who are unable to get back to work
  • Ensure the State Pension continues to retain its value and give people the financial security they need in later life.

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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