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Older workers make great employees

There are business advantages to employing over 50s, including higher motivation and emotional stability.

“The perception people have when you mention over 50s workers, is that they think of tech illiteracy, low skills base and crumbling health,” says jobs matchmaker Jonathan Collie. “But people don’t realise that they’re often at their peak.”

Collie, founder of the Age of No Retirement, is one of a number of advocates calling for employers to realise the advantages of taking on older workers. Ageist stereotypes, they say, not only lead to discrimination, but may mean businesses miss out on valuable talent.

Campaigners say older workers should not be forced to work, but given the opportunity to continue if they want.

Collie has launched a national debate, The Age of No Retirement?, on the issue of older workers.

“People are now living longer, healthier and more productively than ever before,” he says. “In other words, we are younger for longer. So we need to start thinking in terms of positives.

“People aren’t falling apart at the seams at the age of 60 – they can be as productive as people in their 20s, because they have so much experience. They are more resilient, they have a greater depth of emotional intelligence, they’re more committed to their employers and are equally driven.”

Ros Altmann, the government’s adviser on older workers, says more needs to done to harness the potential of over 50s.

“There are strong business reasons that employers are starting to discover to favour taking on at least some older workers,” she says.

Altmann, who was appointed to her position in July, adds: “There’s no doubt that there is age discrimination in the labour market. You can stereotype the young and have prejudices against them just as much as you can have prejudices against older people. My wish would be to make sure that everyone is taken on their own merits without a preconception.”

There are more over 50s in employment than ever before, but more than half the labour force has already stopped working before they reach state pension age. Although some people enjoy a planned early retirement, it is more common for people to feel forced out of work by circumstances beyond their control, according to the Centre for Policy on Ageing.

Altmann has been critical of the government’s slow progress towards balancing the age of the workforce. “They’re late. Very, very late,” she says. “The demographics have been clear for a long time and the ageing population has been happening for the last 65 years. I’m convinced it will happen, I’d just like to see it happen quicker. If we don’t make this work well, we’re talking about economic decline.

“By 2020 there’ll be 3.7m more people in this country aged 50 to state pension age, and 700,000 fewer aged 16-49. So if we want to make the most of the resources in the economy, we really need to make this agenda work, and work for people.”

In recent years there has been a push to get young people into jobs, but no campaign for older workers. For instance, employers can win government subsidies for taking on apprenticies who are under 25, but there is no equivalent for over 50s.


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