New figures reveal over-50s are the fastest growing part of workforce


Scotland is enjoying a historic boom in “grey workers” as hundreds of thousands of people enjoy better health in their 50s, 60s and 70s.


The Herald reports that new figures show the over-50s are the fastest-growing part of the workforce as Scots delay retirement, allowing both private firms and public services increasingly to benefit from their experience and reliability.

In Scotland, there are now 287,000 more men and women aged over 50 who are economically active than at the turn of the century. This growth massively outstrips the 115,000 people from the European Union who have moved to find work in Scotland in recent years. It comes after two decades of solid improvements to Scotland’s record as the “sick man of Europe”, with, for example, new figures last month showing a continued fall in the number of cases of heart disease.

Professor David Bell, of Stirling University, part of a major study that produced the statistics, said: “The people who are most likely to retire early are the very poor, who have poor health, and the very rich, who can afford to do so. These numbers suggest that early retirement is less prevalent. “It is not just that there are more workers who are older, but that older workers make up a bigger share of the workforce. This is very significant.” As of 2016 there were 433,000 men and 399,000 women aged over 50 still in the workforce – a total of 832,000. That compares with just 545,000 in 2001. As a share of the workforce the age group has jumped from 23.4 per cent to 32.1 per cent in the same period.

Mr Bell, who is part of the study Healthy Ageing in Scotland, stressed that the number of women in work after 50 was growing far faster than that of men and accounted for more than half of the new grey workforce.  But the economics expert said older workers were not robbing jobs from the young. Economists talk of the “lump of labour” fallacy – the false belief, held by many, that there is a fixed stock of jobs with many being taken from indigenous workers as a result of mass immigration.   Mr Bell cautioned against falling for the same fallacy over grey workers. He said: “These older workers will be contributing to the economy, buying good and services and paying taxes, and creating more jobs.”

Figures also suggest the over-45s now account for more tax than the young. However, recent studies across the UK have also suggested older workers, like immigrants, face prejudice in the workplace. Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in England sent out hundreds of job applications in the names of two fictional men, both white and British but one aged 28 and the other 50. The older “applicant” was almost 22 per cent less likely to be invited for an interview.  Business leaders told The Herald, however,  they felt older workers, and older entrepreneurs, were valued.  A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Lots of people who are in their 40s and 50s reach a stage in their career when they have a lot to experience and knowledge in, say, a specialist field  and can branch out on their own and be their own boss. Such entrepreneurs are often a bit older.

“But our members also tell us that older workers offer a great deal to small and medium-sized businesses, and that they really value the experience they bring.” Some big-name companies, such as B&Q, National Express, McDonald’s and Lloyds and Barclays Bank, have pioneered later-life training and hiring of workers.  The rise in the number of older workers reflects dramatic improvements in the kind of diseases responsible for forced early retirement or early death, such as strokes.  For instance, figures released last month showed the mortality rate from coronary heart disease had dropped by 37 per cent between 2006 and 2015.

(Article source: The Herald)

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