The number of over 70s still working has more than doubled in a decade to nearly half a million in 2019

27th May 2019

Record numbers of over 70s are choosing work over retirement, according to new analysis from Rest Less, the largest membership community site in the UK to offer work and volunteering opportunities specifically targeted at the over 50s.

In bespoke data provided to Rest Less by the Office for National Statistics*, Rest Less’s analysis found that the number of over 70s in full or part-time employment has been steadily rising year on year over the past 10 years, reaching a peak of 497,946 in the first quarter of this year – an increase of 286,000 or 135 per cent since 2009. Today, nearly 1 in 12 (8.1%) of those in their 70s are working, a significant increase from the 1 in 22 (4.5%) there were 10 years ago.

The analysis also shows that:

  • There are nearly 323,000 men aged 70 and over who are working either part-time or full-time today with nearly 1 in 9 men in their 70s continuing to work (11%) The number of men employed over the age of 70 has increased by 137% over the past 10 years when just 136,000 were working.
  • Significantly more men aged 70 and over are working full-time compared with a decade ago. This figure has more than trebled in the last decade to 113,513 in 2019, up from 36,302 in 2009 – an increase of 213%.
  • The number of women aged 70 and above who are still working has also more than doubled in a decade. Today, there are 175,000 women aged 70 and above who are working compared with only 76,000 in 2019 – a 131% increase.
  • There are more than 53,000 over 80s who are working in the UK today, 75% of whom are working part-time.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “Whilst we know that the over 50s in general have been the driving force behind the UK’s impressive employment growth in recent years, our deeper analysis shows the hard work and significant economic contribution made by the rapidly growing numbers of over 70s in the workplace.

Work patterns are changing – gone are the days of working hard five days a week for four and a half decades before suddenly stopping – and retiring ‘cold turkey’. We can see from our analysis that part-time work is growing in popularity amongst the over 70s both male and female.

Those working into their 70s are continuing to work beyond the state pension age and we see a number of reasons for people increasingly doing so. With far fewer ‘gold-plated’ pensions around and ever increasing life expectancy, many are actively looking to top up their pension savings while they still can. There is also a growing understanding of the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement, such as staying active, socially connected and maintaining a feeling of fulfilment.

‘With generational lows in the unemployment rate, the over 50s offer a talented, and up to now largely untapped opportunity to many employers who are struggling to fill a skills and employment gap.”

Lily Parsey from the International Longevity Centre, commented: “Working longer can be good for us and good for the economy.”

“While it is great that more people are continuing to work part-time into their later lives, health inequalities continue to disadvantage some people, all too often resulting in unwanted early labour market exits.

“To maximise the longevity dividend of our ageing society, we need to provide more opportunities for flexible working to allow people to juggle work with health and care needs or caring responsibilities. We need to ensure people of all ages are included in life-long learning opportunities. And we need to create inclusive and supportive workplaces, to ensure that we all can benefit from the benefits longevity can yield.”

Table 1: Employees aged 70 and over

Over 70 2009 2019 Increase
Male and Female Combined 212,276 497,946 135%
Male 136,379 322,953 137%
Female 75,897 174,993 131%
Male Full Time 36,302 113,513 213%
Male Part Time 100,077 209,440 109%
Female Full Time 9,495 31,962 237%
Female Part Time 66,402 143,031 115%

Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Ageing Better, added: “As we all live longer lives, more of us want to work for longer. To do that we need fulfilling jobs which give us a sense of meaning, help us keep vital social connections, and provide us with financial stability as we age.

“With fewer younger people starting work to replace those set to retire in future years, uncertainty over Brexit, and worsening skills and labour shortages, it’s vital that employers wake up and adopt age-friendly practices like flexible working to enable people to work for as long as they want.”

“The face of Britain’s workforce is changing dramatically. We can’t afford to ignore our older workers.”

Stephen Clarke, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The impressive recent employment growth for older workers has been a big boost to living standards, and a sign of things to come in an ageing society.

“But the UK still performs poorly compared to many other similar countries in terms of older workers’ participation in the labour market, so plenty more progress can be made.

“To encourage this, the government should enable people to partially draw down pension pots while continuing to work, while businesses need to do more to keep those with health problems or caring responsibilities engaged with the labour market.”

Case Study of 70 in August Full Time Fork Truck Driver from Lewisham, South East London

Raymond Irving is 70 in August and has been working as a fork truck driver with Veolia at their recycling plant on the Old Kent Road for the past eight years, 40 hours a week. Prior to that, he worked as a team lead supervisor at the Evening Standard building for 10 years and a variety of other roles over the past fifty years.

Mr Irving is planning to move to a part-time role at the end of the year. Unfortunately there are no part-time roles available at his existing employer so he will look elsewhere and is open to anything – he has his eye on the cafe in his local park who advertise regularly for part-time staff. He is not choosing to work out of necessity – he has his state pension and a private pension – but he feels that as long as he is fit and healthy, then he wants to work. He doesn’t want to end up spending all his time in the local betting shops! He isn’t sure yet how he is going to spend his days off work but hopes he can swim every morning.

His wife is 71 and retired from Sainsburys when she was 65.

Case Study of an 81 and 82 Year Old Couple Who Work Part-Time

Alice Noble is 81 and a former Marketing Manager at Neff. She started making jewellery about nine years ago and took adult education classes at Westminster to learn more. After picking up all three B-tech level qualifications, she started selling at craft fairs about five years ago. She attends about six a year.

Alice’s husband Richard, 82, is an Aeronautics graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but switched to banking early on in his career. He was transferred to the UK in 1974 and worked for Citibank and Credit Suisse until 2002. Richard is currently working – in a volunteer role – to support the Regent’s Park Musical festival which takes place every Sunday from June to September.

Richard and Alice live in South Hampstead, London.

Case Study of A 69 Year Old Part-Time Female Worker

Dee Flower is 69, a mother of three and grandmother of three, and lives in Bexhill-on-Sea. Having spent several decades working for herself and for employers such as Reed and Hastings Direct, at the age of 68, decided to retire with a view to winding down and also spending more time helping out her 95 year old mum. Just a month into her retirement, she had an ‘oh my god, what have I done?’ moment and began volunteering several times a week. Shortly afterwards, Dee found a role as a part-time Skills and Apprenticeship Consultant with Little Gate Farm, a charity that supports young people with learning disabilities and autism. Dee feels she has established a work-life balance in her new career at 69; splitting her time between work and family, and she is currently happy and fulfilled.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Aisling Gray
PR Lead, Rest Less
Phone: 07900996065
Email: [email protected]

About Rest Less

Rest Less ( launched in October 2018 and is a membership community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life. Rest Less has thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-friendly employers across the country. Rest Less is the only site in the UK to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path, specifically targeting the rapidly growing over 50s market.