Women Over the Age of 50 Have Driven 42% of UK Employment Growth in the Last 10 Years

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) labour market data released today shows that employment has risen by 11 per cent in the past 10 years (from 29.5 million to 32.7 million). Analysis issued today from Rest Less, shows that it is women over the age of 50 who are responsible for 42 percent of this employment growth over the past decade. This compares with men over the age of 50 who are responsible for 35 percent of the total employment growth.

Rest Less, the largest membership community site in the UK to offer work and volunteering opportunities specifically targeted at the over 50s, analysed today’s ONS data and found that:

  • The number of over 50s (men and women) in work has increased by 31 per cent (from 7.97 million to 10.4 million) over the past decade (November – January 2009 compared with November – January 2019)
  • Today, there are 4.89 million women aged 50 and above who are still working.  This is an increase of 1.3 million, or 38 per cent compared with a decade ago
  • There are 504,000 female over 65s working today compared with 252,000 a decade ago – an increase of 100 percent 
  • In the past decade, the employment rate of women over the age of 65 has increased from 4.7% to 7.9%, an increase of 67% – the fastest acceleration of any other age sector reported by the ONS.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented on the analysis: “Our analysis shows that the over 50s have yet again proved to be the unsung heroes of the UK economy over the last decade, having played a major role in the employment growth we have seen. In particular, it is working women aged 50 and over who have driven the biggest increase. With the rapid equalisation of the woman’s state pension age, which reached 65 in 2018, it is not surprising to see the biggest increases in employment come from women over the age of 50.”

Chart 1: The employment rate of men and women aged 50-64 highlighting the increasing rate since the UK Pensions Act 2011* (based on ONS data)

UK Employment Rate Men & Women Aged 50-64

Earlier this year (end of January 2019), Rest Less polled a national representative sample of 2,000 people on whether they planned to work beyond their state pension age*. One in three women across all age groups said they planned to work beyond their state pension age (30%). Of these, nearly one in two said it was because they didn’t think they could afford to retire (45%). This was in stark contrast to men: 35 percent of the men who planned to work beyond their state pension age said it was due to not being able to afford to give up work.

Stuart Lewis added: “Tragically, 45% of women we surveyed who plan to work beyond their state pension age said it was because they simply cannot afford to retire. With the state pension age for both men and women rising to 66 in 2020, this will only put more financial pressure on people to continue working into their later years.

‘However we shouldn’t overlook the positive reasons to continue working into our late 60s and beyond. 44% of the women we surveyed said they planned to continue to work after the state pension age for the health and wellbeing benefits of staying active.

‘Our population is ageing* and we can all look forward to longer, more active working lives. The solution is not necessarily about plugging away at the same old job for longer. The real opportunity for older workers and employers alike is to help facilitate career pathways that provide people with the fulfilling roles and opportunities they want, at all stages of life.”

Ruth Winden, Career Coach for the Over 50s on OlderButBolder.com, commented: “Whilst many women choose to continue to work because they enjoy it, there is a strong economic imperative behind the need or choice for women to keep working. Women are still the ones who face much lower financial security in later life and many have a much smaller pension pot in comparison to men. Women also live longer lives and this requires extra financing. The biggest challenge for society and employers is how to help these women back into meaningful, enjoyable work that meets their personal needs and also pays them a fair wage.”

Case Study of A 62 Year Old Female Worker

Moira Dennison is 62 and lives on a houseboat currently moored in Windsor. Having spent 30 years working in the voluntary sector, Moira decided to try a change of direction seven years ago when she got involved in a start-up business focusing on renewable energy. When it didn’t come to fruition, two years ago, Moira found herself at the age of 60 needing to find some paid employment. She tried to go back into similar roles and considered a move sideways or even down a rung, but her experience was that “the market isn’t that open if you’ve got to a certain level in the voluntary sector”.

Whilst walking around Windsor with her friend, she saw an ad in a window of a designer dress shop for a shop assistant. Moira walked in and walked out with the job. Today, she works in the shop, she is a Trustee at a local Swan Sanctuary and she has a Non Executive Director role at a mental health charity. She is also about to launch a charity from scratch.

Moira has no specific plans for retirement and wants to continue to work for as long as she is able to contribute back to society, in roles she is passionate about. This has always been her driver and now that she is in her 60s, she feels no differently.

For media enquiries, please contact:

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