Surge in ‘grey’ workforce who can’t afford retirement

A GROWING number of the over-65s are opting to remain in work amid claims they are having to stay in jobs to meet the rising cost of living and low returns on savings.

Firms such as B&Q are happy to employ older, experienced staff. Picture: PA

New Scottish figures released for the year 2012-13 reveal a 20 per cent increase in the number of people of 
retirement age who are staying in a job, compared with the 
previous 12-month period.

The rise is particularly pronounced among men, with an extra 10,000 “grey” male workers in Scotland opting to stay in work.

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A total of 71,000 over-65s are now in work, the figures show, or nearly one in 12, compared with the previous full year of 2011-12 when only 59,000 were registered as in work.

Charities last night said the rise may be due to the so-called “demographic timebomb”, with the over-65s set to become a more substantial part of the 
labour market.

But they added the rapid rise was also due to pensioners needing to boost their income.

A spokesman for Age Scotland said: “There are still many pensioners who are asset-rich – owning their own homes – but cash-poor, where staying in work is the only option if they wish to remain in their own home. Due to the poor economy and savings rates, pensioners are using their savings to live on from day to day rather than having their money work for them.”

He added: “More people are remaining in employment or seeking employment in later life due to a combination of rising costs of food and fuel along with a fall in income from savings.”

Most of the increase in the over-65s category is made up of men. A total of 44,000 are still working – 11.2 per cent of pensionable-age males. Among women, 27,000 over-65s are in work, or 5.5 per cent.

The new data on the working population was published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday, and showed that 
the increase in elderly workers had contributed to a growing employment rate.

A total of 2,531,000 people were in work in Scotland between April and June of this year, up 13,000 on the previous three-month spell – the highest figure in four years.

With the labour market statistics also showing a slight drop of 1,000 in unemployment in Scotland, to 7.2 per cent, both UK and Scottish ministers described the figures as “encouraging”.

But union chiefs warned that the headline numbers disguised the fact that people in work were suffering from stagnant wages and the surging cost of living.

Both youth unemployment – at 20 per cent – and long-term unemployment are also causes for concern, they said.

Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary said: “This week has seen publication of more survey evidence supposedly confirming the strength of the UK’s recovery from a prolonged period of economic depression.

“However, workers experiencing rapidly declining real wages and rising insecurity of employment certainly don’t feel as if they’re benefiting from an improving economy.”

However, Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, insisted the trend was “extremely welcome”. She added that the employment rate increase was “evidence that the confidence that is re-emerging among Scotland’s businesses is being translated into new jobs”.