As the UK’s population ages, retirement will no longer be a point at which people stop working, but rather become a moment when they reframe the terms of employment. Employers need to embrace that shift given Britain’s looming demographics and to see the older population in a new light.
Retirement jobs are surprisingly prevalent already, from supermarket checkout greeters to management consultants. In fact, as of late last year, there were 1.15 million people aged 65 and over in paid work in Britain according to Age UK.
This figure shows just how many people are not yet ready to put their feet up. Continued work provides people with valuable social interaction. Work gives people a sense that they are contributing to their community and wider economy.
Combine all this with the need for an income, and the trend is set to increase as generation X – born between 1961 and 1981 – reaches retirement age. That cohort’s lack of final salary pensions combined with inadequate retirement savings will leave them with little choice but to carry on working.
Initially the demand for retirement jobs is likely to outweigh supply. The supermarkets only need a finite number of greeters after all. However, as the demographic balance of the population shifts and it becomes harder to recruit young people, employers will look to develop retirement jobs to take advantage of the expertise they already have within their organisations.
I see retirement jobs as likely to be less physically and mentally demanding, perhaps involving a more flexible or adapted work environment. The benefits offered could have a greater emphasis on healthcare and wellbeing. They may well be part-time, and pay less than a more-involved, full-time role but these jobs will be enough to supplement people’s retirement income.
The traditional ascent to the top of the career ladder by the time of retirement will be replaced by a more curved trajectory, where people’s careers will peak in their 40s and 50s – mirroring their capacity for work. I believe people will be prepared to exchange higher income for more relaxed working conditions, but it is important that these retirement jobs retain some level of status – particularly for highly-skilled employees.
Workers need to think about how they can exploit their skills as they approach retirement age. I believe employers will learn to value experience and the knowledge older workers bring in filling the skills gap created by changing demographics.
Skilled workers have a role to play in training others and employers need to be alert to the latent talent within their workforce. This may require investment to create a workplace suitable for older workers, but it will pay dividends.