One of the reasons the UK has more people in work than ever is the effort recent governments have put into apprenticeships.
The other major contributory factor to the UK regaining economic stability is the growth of the self employed workforce.
But there’s another dynamic that PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research suggests remains untapped.
That source is the elderly workforce. Namely, candidates aged 55+, whom personnel and recruitment agencies in particular are guilty of overlooking in recent years.
It’s not all the recruiters’ fault. Whilst ageism is supposed to have been wiped from the job map, it exists in droves.
Ask anyone over 50 who’s been to an interview. True, the recruiter may not speak the words. But their eyes and body language? You know as well as they do that you’re too old for the position a client has asked them to fill.
Should recruiters do more for elderly candidates?
Part of the reason ageism still exists is down to the competitiveness of the recruitment industry itself.
Many clients use more than one agency. If you’ve been in an office scenario, you know the gatekeeper protocol the office manager expects. If you pick up an agency prospecting call, the manager is on the golf course, with clients – anywhere but reachable.
But just for a minute, imagine the scenario where the client does need temporary staff. Let’s say they use just two agencies on a regular basis.
Agency A develops a penchant for supplying younger candidates to the client. Agency B toes the line and ignores age. Thus their average candidate is much older.
Only for certain roles would experience (thus, an assumed higher wage) be suitable. In a short time, the client would begin, even if on a subconscious level, to favour Agency A and its younger, more flexible workforce.
Following PwC’s ‘Golden Age’ index research, that scenario could be about to turn on its head. On its own, it would be easy for recruiters to ignore the new data set.
But it’s the hint that by utilising 55+ workers as Sweden do the UK could add £100bn to GDP that’ll make the difference. You can bet your bottom dollar the Government has clocked the research already, less than 24 hours after it’s hit the digital shelves.
People living longer is on the government’s To-Do List
The government is already midst-planning what it can do with pensioners. All the forecasts point to people living longer, meaning more years in retirement. That’s a big bill the Treasury couldn’t have forecast forty years ago when those approaching retirement began working.
But the reason people are living longer, the advance in medicine and serious illness treatment, adds fuel to the already-scorching fire.
Again, skilled doctors and pharmacists add costs to the national budget, stretching the NHS beyond anything its ever known.
For the older generation itself, this news should be a boon. But that will depend on how the government sugarcoats their plans.
What incentives can the government offer to keep older people in work longer?
The only way many have been able to support themselves post-working life is by setting up shop on their own. Statistics in the latest self-employment figures support that reality.
And it’s one thing citing Sweden, but what’s the reality?
They, along with Iceland and Norway, see three of the OECD‘s top five spots of importance of older generations to output anchored in Scandinavia.
The Swedes have been making provisions for the ‘Golden Age’ since the ’90’s, so have a 20-year head start.
One of the reforms they’ve made along the way is to reduce tax for employers who take on workers between 55-69 years’ old. This saving, one would assume, is passed onto the older workers to entice them to stay employed.
And it will need incentives for the UK to emulate its Nordic neighbours.
Just imagine a worker who’s paid full tax and NICs into the system since they were 16. They’re hardly going to jump for joy when they realise the state pension they expected is pitiful. Moreover, that they’ve got to pay full tax again beyond their theoretical retirement age.
The UK is placed 19th on the Golden Age Index, based on 2013 figures. It’s a spot they retained from the 2007 report. Yay!
But we can temper that ‘joy’ with the knowledge that Greece held the same spot before plummeting to 29th in the index. That’s out of the 34 countries that make up the OECD. So, yes. The Conservatives will want to put that right over the next five years.
Between now and then, it seems as if Mr Cameron, et al, has some research to undertake. How will he and the Chancellor help those nearing retirement help the UK attain that extra £100bn?
If they don’t take a lead from Sweden, it’ll be a case of pensioners saying “ABBA seein’ ya” to the clocking in machine once and for all.