Changing patterns of work at older ages | Institute for Fiscal Studies –

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Published on 17 June 2021
In this report, we provide fresh evidence on the nature of paid work at older ages, how employment patterns differ for people in different circumstances and how the situation is changing over time.
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Longer working lives offer many benefits, but achieving these can pose challenges for individuals, employers and policymakers. In order to support people in their 50s and 60s to remain in paid work for longer, it is imperative that we have a good picture of what paid work looks like at older ages, and how that might evolve in future. The desired working patterns of older workers – in terms of their hours of work, the form of their employment or the tasks they undertake at work – may be quite different from those of middle-aged or younger adults.
An ageing population and higher employment rates for people in their 50s and 60s mean that patterns of work of older workers are an increasingly important issue for the country as a whole. Indeed, in 2019, around 10 million or 61% of 50- to 69-year-olds were in paid work, meaning that this age group comprises almost a third (31%) of the workforce in the UK, up from just 21% in 1992.
In this report, we provide fresh evidence on the nature of paid work at older ages, how employment patterns differ for people in different circumstances and how the situation is changing over time. In particular, we examine in depth the transitions that older workers make, both into and out of work and between different types of employment in the run-up to retirement.
Having provided a comprehensive picture of working life for people in their 50s and 60s, we then examine the implications of our findings for some key issues facing older workers in the labour market in the coming years, including which groups might be of particular concern in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues are important not only for the individuals themselves, but for policymakers who are seeking to encourage people into longer and more fulfilling working lives, for employers who would benefit from employing them, and for civil society organisations and government agencies interested in assisting older people in finding productive work that allows them to balance their work and personal lives.
Key findings
Rowena Crawford
Associate Director
Jonathan is an Associate Director and Head of Retirement, Savings and Ageing sector, focusing on pensions, savings and economic activity in later life
Research Economist
Heidi is a Research Economist in the Retirement, Saving and Ageing sector. Her current work includes research on pensions and saving for retirement.
Research Economist
Laurence is in the Retirement, Savings and Ageing sector. His work focuses on people’s savings decisions and on economic activity in later life.
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