What do older workers think about extending working life?

Matt Flynn, director of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at Newcastle University shares an interesting insight into the results of a recent survey into the experiences of the 50+ in the workplace.

There has been a lot of discussion within the business community about extending working life. Pension ages are rising and many employers are looking to tap into the older workforce for skills and experience.  Innovative approaches to retaining and supporting older workers through lifelong learning, mentoring, phased retirement and healthy work environments are being developed by companies like Barclays, BAE Systems and BT.

What do older workers themselves think of extending working life and human resource practices to support them in delaying retirement? The Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) asked people 50+ in work about their workplaces; jobs; skills (technical, social and employability); pensions and retirement plans. Most importantly, we asked older workers how much choice they have in work: for example whether they can learn a new skill, adjust working hours, or make a career change.   Our aim is to find out whether people with more autonomy in work have different retirement patterns than those who do not.

We are still crunching the numbers, but we can report one interesting finding: retirement ages are going up. We asked a double barrelled question which we have asked older workers in two previous surveys in 2004 and 2010:
At what age are you planning to retire and why have you chosen that age?
The age at which people are planning to retire has increased from an average of 62.4 a decade ago to 63.4 in 2010 to 65.1 now.

More people say that they are working longer because they want to (48%) versus needing to in order to get a full pension (34%).  However, family income plays a big role in determining planned retirement age and those on low income are also planning to retire latest, so there will be a challenge for employers to support those who are working longer because they cannot afford not to. 

Further, many people are approaching retirement without knowing what their pensions will be. 28% of people within five years of retirement say they are only vaguely aware of what their retirement incomes will be.

More of the findings will be reported, but I would also welcome input from the Business in the Community  network .  I am happy to share our questionnaire and findings, if this is something of interest to you please email me at m.flynn@agediversity.org.uk

Matt Flynn is the director of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at Newcastle University. He has carried out research on age diversity for the UK government, businesses and trade unions.  You can find his work, including good practice guides for employers, at www.agediversity.org.  Follow him on Twitter (@agediversity) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/agediversity).