Employers should increase the number of older people in the UK workforce by one million over the next five years to combat age bias, the Government’s business champion for older workers, Andy Briggs, will announce today.
He said that every UK employer should increase the number of workers aged 50-69 by 12 per cent by 2022 in order to address the widening skills gap, tackle age bias in work and enable people to stay in work longer.
The target is aimed at supporting older people who want the same range of options and opportunities as younger colleagues, and to be recognised for their experience and expertise.
Mr Briggs, who is CEO of Aviva UK Life, said that by recognising the skills older people bring to the workplace, employers will benefit from the breadth and depth of their knowledge. Aviva employs 2,000 people at its life and general insurance business in York and 1,500 at its life and health insurance operation in Sheffield.
Mr Briggs said: “One million more older people in work by 2022 is an ambitious yet necessary target. There are 15 million people of this age group in the labour market, yet only nine million are in work. We want to get this to 10 million by 2022.
“This target is achievable if employers commit to taking an honest and sustained approach to understanding age bias in their organisations. Older people can be written off by their employers, but we are asking employers to consider carefully the overwhelming benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce, and then to act on it.
“We live in an ageing society so it is critical that people are able to work for as long as they need and want to and there are overwhelming benefits for both employers and employees.”
He said that many people aged over 50 want to continue to develop their careers, learn new skills, try new things and also share their broad knowledge and experience.
“This is good for everyone, and particularly for employers and their businesses who will benefit from drawing on the talent, creativity and experience of all of their employees, regardless of their age,” he added.
The employment rate for people aged 50-69 is 59 per cent and Mr Briggs said this must increase to 66 per cent by 2022 if the UK is to start addressing its skills gap.
He said that by 2022, 14.5 million more jobs will be created but only 7 million younger workers will enter the workforce – leaving 7.5 million roles unfilled.
Rachael Saunders, Business in the Community’s age at work director, said: “Our role is to raise awareness of the injustice facing so many older workers and people in the UK.
“The over 50s are a key part of the UK workforce and employers need to open their eyes to this talent pool.
“We are here to provide employers with the practical guidance and support they need to take action. We urge employers to get behind this target and work with us to prevent people from leaving work unnecessarily early and to benefit from an age diverse workforce.”
The target is supported by the Centre for Ageing Better.
It chief executive Anna Dixon said: “By 2022, more than one in three workers will be over 50. Employment rates for this age group have been growing, but they remain much lower than for younger people, with a rapid falling off after the age of 55.”
She said that increasing the number of people over 50 in fulfilling work is good for society and good for business.
“To achieve this ambitious target, we need age-friendly workplaces, which allow people to sustain productive and healthy working lives for longer. Older workers should expect to be treated equally and fairly as any other worker,” she said.
At the launch event today, Mr Briggs will outline the facts behind the 2022 target.
He will say that if the employment rate of people aged 50-64 matched that of those aged 35-49, it would add more than 5 per cent to UK GDP, or £88bn.
By 2020 over 50s will make up almost one third of the working age population and almost half of the adult population.
The UK employment rate at aged 50 is 83 per cent and drops to 64 per cent by the age of 60.
The research showed that 47 per cent of people aged 50 plus who are unemployed have been out of work for 12 months or more, compared with 34 per cent of all UK adults.
For more information, visit: http://age.bitc.org.uk/BusinessChampion