People aged 65 and over in the UK contributed £61 billion to the economy last year through employment, informal caring and volunteering, according to a new report by Age UK.
That’s equivalent to 4.6 per cent of gross value added, and six times more than the money spent on social care by local authorities in England.
The report found that £37 billion of the total amount came from employment and £11.4 billion from informal caring. Child care contributed £6.6 billion. Nearly £6 billion came from volunteering.
For the first time there are now more than eleven million people in the UK aged 65 and over. A growing number of them – more than a million – are working.
Although some will be doing so from financial necessity many others want to work for longer because they are in good health and because what they achieve at work is valuable and worthwhile.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said, ‘These figures demonstrate the huge contribution that older people are making to our economy. To put them in perspective, local authorities in England currently spend considerably less – just under £10 billion – on social care for older people.
‘Many will be surprised by just how much older people contribute but it’s time we appreciated that they are playing a more and more important part in creating our prosperity.
“Older people bring a great deal of knowledge, skill and energy, as volunteers and as paid employees, and in doing so they are redefining what it means to be “an older person”.’
Age UK’s annual ‘state of the nation’ report, Agenda For Later Life, launched this month, focuses on what it’s like to be an older person in the UK today and the importance of being prepared for the period of our lives after full time work potentially lasting between 30 and forty years.
Caroline Abrahams added, ‘With our rapidly ageing population and the rising State Pension age it’s more important than ever that we consign age discrimination to the past and enable older people who want to continue to work to do so.
‘Youth unemployment is a serious concern and some may worry that older people who work are depriving young people of jobs; however, the economic evidence is clear that employing older workers does not affect the number of jobs available to younger people.[vi]’
Unfortunately, many older people who want to keep working still find themselves locked out of the labour market as a result of age discrimination.
More than 113,000 men and 65,000 women aged 50 and over have currently been out of work for more than a year and are finding it really tough to get back into work.
Many others have resorted to part time work when they would ideally like to work full-time.
The Age UK report also reveals that the bulk of child care undertaken by older people is carried out by those aged 65 and over – most frequently probably grandparents who look after their grandchildren, to enable their own adult children to work – an example of the crucial economic (and social) contribution older people often make, even when they are not in paid employment themselves.