Older workers to carry on until 70 to fill skills gap

The government has suggested that employees will need to remain in their jobs up until the age of 70 to fill a shortage of qualified staff.

According to figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions, employers will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies over the next 10 years but only 7 million young people will leave school during the same period.

Due to restrictions on the number of migrants coming into the UK, the government is urging employers to re-think their attitudes to staff in their 50s and 60s as an untapped source of labour.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said;

“Over time there will be a whole set of jobs where employers need experienced older workers and a firm that doesn’t change its attitude to older workers will be left behind.”

By 2020 over a third of the workforce will be over 50 compared to 27% at present.

The DWP said that older workers remain just as productive as their younger counterparts until at least the age of 70 and have published a guide to encourage firms to hire and retain older workers to build a ‘multi-generational workforce’.

If employers don’t change their practices the report warned that they will face skills shortages and risk future discrimination claims as employers can no longer force staff to retire.

Many employers are already convinced of the benefits of employing older workers, finding they have a broader range of skills and experience and are able to mentor new employees. Some firms also noted an increase in productivity at outlets staffed by a mixture of older and younger workers.

Steve Webb added that the government was not planning to force people to work until their 70s but it was more about ‘enabling people to carry on’ since in most cases it was ‘good for their wellbeing’.

The DWP also urged employers to consider offering apprenticeships and work experience opportunities to people of all ages and suggested older people should return consider returning to university or study to retrain to increase their employability.

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