Press release

Webb: New figures show retirement is changing

New government research shows how the way we view retirement is changing, as well as the challenges that older workers can face.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Nearly half of over 50s want to keep working between age 65 and 70.

Only 17% say that working full time and then stopping work altogether would be the best way for them to retire.

Nearly two-thirds of over 50s no longer think that working full time and then stopping work altogether is the best way to retire and around half of them would still like to be in work between 65 and 70, according to new government research showing how retirement is changing.

The research, part of Dr Ros Altmann’s work as Business Champion for Older Workers, shows how the way we view retirement is changing, as well as the challenges that older workers can face.

The independent YouGov survey of over 2,000 retired and non-retired people aged over 50 reveals people are now looking towards a more flexible retirement and that traditional views of retirement are becoming a thing of the past.

The poll shows:

  • 39% of over 50s not currently retired said that working part time or flexible hours before stopping work altogether would be the best way to retire

  • over 1 in 4 said they would be interested in taking a few months off and then returning to work as an alternative to retirement

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb said:

How we all look at retirement is changing and the way in which government and business help older workers needs to keep up with the times.

We are making giant steps in improving this support with almost 250,000 more people aged 50 to 64 joining the labour market over the last year and over a million workers aged 65 and over now in work.

The results show there is no single view of retirement any more, but the message from older workers is clear; employers need to keep up with changes to society and we have to ensure over 50s have the skills in place to continue developing their careers throughout their working lives.

Dr Ros Altmann said:

Millions of over 50s have changed their retirement plans in recent years, and now expect to retire later – clearly later life working is very much more important to people than before.

It is clear that many older people no longer see retirement as turning their back on work. They want to work longer, but shift the pace while still making the most of their skills.

What’s great is that more employers are now getting the message that older workers can have a valuable role in business, particularly as they increasingly represent their future customers and workforce.

YouGov research published today shows how retirement is changing:

  • 39% of over 50s not currently retired said that working part time or flexible hours before stopping work altogether would be the best way to retire

  • nearly half (48%) of those under 65 and not currently retired would like to be in work still between the ages of 65 and 70.

  • 36% of retirees say their advice to others would be to ‘consider switching to flexible or part time work for a period first’ before stopping work altogether

  • 33% of those working aged over 70 said they did so because they enjoyed it

While the research shows changing attitudes to working later in life, it also shows the challenges that older workers can face:

  • 23% of over 50 workers feel they are viewed ‘less favourably than younger workers’, while 51% said they that they thought that their employer views older workers ‘as favourably as younger workers’

  • 15% of those not currently retired report experiencing age-based discrimination in the workplace.

  • amongst those who have been unemployed at some point since turning 50 but are currently working:

    • 41% agreed that their age affected their confidence in applying for jobs
    • 53% agreed that they felt employers were not interested in hiring them because of their age
    • 23% agreed that applying for jobs was difficult because their skills were out of date

The poll also showed some evidence suggesting that some non-retired over 50s both in and out of work were ready to build new skills.

Nearly half of non-retired over 50s (47%) stated they were interested in attending a training course to learn new or update existing skills. Later life training is increasingly important as more people want to work longer. Lifelong learning and adult re-skilling are vital to a vibrant future labour force.

From April, the government is rolling out a project that will see ‘older workers’ champions introduced into Jobcentres across every part of Britain to help tackle the age discrimination that can lead to much higher levels of long-term unemployment among over 50s than their younger counterparts.

Intensive work support will be offered through the scheme with a ‘career review’, digital support for older jobseekers to get online and link-ups with local small and medium sized businesses with vacancies to fill.

This follows the Fuller Working Lives – A Framework For Action published last year and the appointment of Dr Ros Altmann as the UK’s Business Champion for Older Workers who has been advocating the case for older workers within the business community and wider society.

A new guidance toolkit for employers will also be launched to help them support older staff in the workplace, such as by making changes to working patterns or finding alternative roles for those with age-related health difficulties.

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Published 13 January 2015