Why business can no longer afford to ignore the ageing labour market

Why business can no longer afford to ignore the a...

David Knight discusses why business can no longer afford to ignore the ageing labour market


Associate Partner

KPMG in the UK


Also on KPMG.com

Ageing Labour Market

The tide is coming in whether UK plc is ready for it or not. An ageing population, falling birth rates and an education system that has not yet caught up fully with the demands of modern employers are just some of the challenges they face.  

A survey commissioned by KPMG earlier this year to explore British attitudes to the way we work found that 82 percent of people surveyed aged 50 to70–stated that age-related prejudice was still a feature of the workplace despite it being made unlawful in 2006.

Can employers continue to operate like this and expect to remain competitive? I believe not. Within the next decade or two, the youngest of the baby boomers an important segment of the current working population will be heading for retirement.

Meanwhile, the number of bright, young school leavers and graduates will likely be insufficient to fill their shoes. This is despite employment rates being boosted by workers from overseas.  

However, it’s not all bad news for employers. I believe there are significant numbers of skilled staff available who have been displaced by their employers and wish to work up to and beyond conventional retirement dates. 

Forward-thinking management teams should be focused on reconnecting with an age group that has for too many years been undervalued. It’s ironic that in business, where knowledge is pre-eminent, mature workers don’t seem to grow in value. 

I’m in my mid fifties and continue to run marathons. I doubt that anyone thinks that this is remarkable. But in my father’s day, this level of activity would have been considered extraordinary.

Despite a radical change in social perceptions of old age, 80.5 percent of the baby boomers we interviewed said that in the workplace today, they believe that if you are over 50 years of age you are more likely to be overlooked for promotion. Furthermore, if you are unemployed, age is likely to act as a major barrier to your future employment prospects.

Hand-wringing is likely to be replaced by pragmatism and business necessity. Currently, employers don’t have time to muse at length over how to incorporate older people into their workforce. However, they must address this matter as a priority to remain successful - and perhaps also before further legislation compels them to do so.

This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.

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