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Steve Bee: Where will the jobs come from for older workers?

steve bee

Over 20 years ago, towards the end of the 20th century, our government decided to require millions of older people in the future to remain in the workforce for longer. That decision was in response to the generally accepted view of likely increases in longevity.

At the same time, it also decided to equalise the state pension age for men and women. The age for women had been reduced from 65 to 60 during the Second World War, while for men it had remained 65.

A common pension age of 65 was re-established as the century closed, as was the means of enabling the future common pension age to increase over time. But time was allowed for people to adjust to the new order of things and nobody born before 1950 was affected.

Men and women born in the 1950s were set to be the first generation to begin to have access to state pensions at the same age once more and, for some, that common age would be above 65. Those born in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and beyond are likely to be required to remain in the workforce for the whole of their  seventh decade of their lives.

The established timetable to implement this enormous work of social engineering was changed at short notice at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, when it was decided to accelerate the planned increases to the new common pension age. For many women born in the 1950s, who were already affected by two increases to their expected state pension age, the 2011 acceleration of policy caused widespread unease.

That general sense of unease coalesced into a movement of protest under the name of Women Against State Pension Inequality. It called for a Parliamentary rethink of the combined policies and the social and financial effects they had had on so many people, many of whom had not even been aware of the changes. Much of the ensuing debate centered on the poor communication of such important information on the part of successive governments.

However, it must surely have been seen as inevitable before the 1995 legislation was passed that it would likely cause financial hardship for many, particularly women and even more so those who selflessly devoted their time to supporting the lives of others.

Even if the government had implemented a communication plan to ensure all affected were aware in advance, there would clearly still have been many who could not have done much to alleviate their likely poor financial situation in  the future.

Indeed, there seems to have been little  thought in the run up to the 1995 changes as to how so many older people could be accommodated within the workforce of the future, nor how those unable to work could be offered adequate support. The future provision of so many jobs for so many people across the country is something the new Government must discuss most urgently.

Steve Bee is director at Jargonfree Benefits


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There are 8 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. So very true Steve. One of the problems facing the elderly is looking after your partner who may not be able to work which in turn impacts on your own ability to work. I spend around 4 days a month just looking after my father who is 96. Which employer will allow me a day of per week to do that? State support, such as it is, is too complex and many of our clients are not claiming what they should.

  2. Another likely outcome is that the greybeards willtake ( or keep) jobs that the younger generation may have had.

  3. And with one foul swoop, the U.K. Workforce will increase vastly reduceing the natural replacement by the younger generations already struggling to find employment!! The brexit fallout will probably choke lots of opportunities as the timescale is at least 2.5 years of business uncertainty. I suspect unemployment will rise significantly causing an even larger drain on public finances!!!

  4. Elizabeth Spring 3rd August 2016 at 7:05 am

    Life has dwindled down to daily tiny choices about how to keep fed and how to meet people without spending any money. If it raining then I have to pretend to have reasons to rearrange or go to a cafe and spend half a day’s budget on a cup of coffee. I’ve worked all my life. It has been a terrible, humiliating shock to reach my early 60s and realise I am now apparently unemployable. I send the same strong CV out as I did in my 50’s, but get no interviews. My savings are nearly gone. And all this because I was not told that my pension age had been put back twice. In 2012 I thought reducing my hours and working in interim roles was a good way to enter pre-retirement aged 58. But the interim work has mostly dried up; I’m not sure if it’s because of my age or because there are just fewer opportunities around. I like working, I enjoy using my skills and brain and being useful, but here I am trapped in embarrassing isolating poverty.
    It’s so obvious that this huge rise in women’s pension age should not have been implemented without telling us, or ensuring a range of changes were promoted and in place like professional job shares, over 50’s career change apprenticeships, paying senior experts to be part time mentors. There’s not even an option for early draw down of reduced pensions. And yup, now Brexit increases the uncertainty for everyone. It’s all a chaotic mess.

    • Whilst I sympathise with people like Elizabeth, I don’t get this claim by the Waspis not to have been told. My wife is a similar age and she has been aware from the outset that her state pension age moved twice. No, we didn’t get a letter from the Government but we do watch the news and read newspapers and look at the headlines of Budget statements.

  5. How short-sighted of both:
    i) the governments – all types – who seem to think that those with grey hair can find work at the drop of a hat and deserve the appalling “service” they are given at the job centre, and
    ii) those amongst the younger generations who seem to think that there is a finite number of jobs! They don’t realise that there are many, many older workers who have set up their own businesses in their 50s or 60s and are actually creating jobs. Commonly these older workers actually value the input of younger ones especially in relation to technology and social media. The best working environments I have seen are where there is a good mix of ages with respect of all. The worst working environment and the most disfunctional one I encountered was where all employees were of a single age group (and young, as it happens). I meet such entrepreneurs frequently in my current role as business owner and potential employer. No, I would not be keen to take on someone with a chip on their shoulder.
    As for Brexit, in my world which includes export: no negative impact. In fact only yesterday we made a nice gain on the fx relating to a sale. It seems to me that not everyone’s voice is heard.

  6. PS: Comment re chip on shoulder was not addressed to WASPIs. Many have a very good case. Their skills and experience are often hugely undervalued.

  7. At Diane K – What is a “job centre ? “

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