The Size, Scale and Implications of Unemployment amongst over 50s

The life expectancy of individuals in advanced economies has been steadily increasing, placing greater strain upon nation-states as the dependency ratio of the population increases. Life expectancy has reached its highest level in the UK, 77.7 years at birth for males and 81.9 years at birth for females (ONS 2010).

The ONS also estimates that by 2034, individuals aged 65 and over will account for 23% of the population, whereas 18% of the population will be aged 16 or below. Additional resources are required to support the needs of older individuals through a longer retirement, and policy-makers have highlighted how this will create new challenges for the economy and society. For example, substantial resources will be required to fund the support and health services required by a growing older population, whilst providing them with an adequate income in retirement. Furthermore, as the dependency ratio changes, there will be fewer people in employment to support older individuals, through a shrinking tax base.

One suggestion to overcome the challenges associated with ageing populations is to extend the working lives of individuals, something the British government has recently changed by increasing the age of the State Pensionable Age (SPA). The British Government calculated that it could increase its annual GDP by £13bn, if the working life of all adults was increased by one year (BIS 2011:2). It has been suggested that the continuation of work into what was previously retirement, would reduce these pressures further.

However, there are a series of barriers to continued full-time employment including deteriorating health issues, care responsibilities and age discrimination, which is why looking at other alternatives to being employed are valuable to look at.