Black workers retiring later than white counterparts, research finds

Disparity largely the result of lower average incomes, with experts urging HR to ensure diversity initiatives aren’t aimed solely at younger individuals

Black workers are more likely to retire later and have a lower income during retirement compared to their white counterparts, a study has found.

Research by the Centre for Ageing Better found that black men and women in their 50s and 60s were more likely to be in paid work than white individuals of the same age (74 per cent, compared to 60 per cent). Similarly, while 28 per cent of white men and women in this age group were retired, just 11 per cent of black men and women were.

The report, conducted in partnership with the Institute for Public Policy Research and University College London, said this was largely the result of a significant income disparity between different demographic groups within this age range. While the average pay of Asian and white workers in their 50s and 60s was around £500 a week, this dropped to £397 for black workers.

Speaking to People Management, Emily Andrews, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said the research showed older workers from ethnic minority backgrounds were experiencing a “compounding of structural inequalities and structural discrimination that’s bult up over a lifetime”.

“This proves again how important it is to try and remove any kind of bias and discrimination from the recruitment process,” said Andrews, noting that non-white workers in their 50s and 60s faced a “double whammy” of both age and racial discrimination in the hiring process. “We know that both of those things have quite a big impact,” she said.

Andrews said businesses mostly already knew what they should be doing to reduce racial bias here – including removing names from CVs, standardising recruitment processes so all candidates were asked the same questions, and ensuring interview panels were diverse.

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Organisations were typically less well versed on how to root out age discrimination, however, Andrews said. “That’s something that the Centre for Ageing Better is working on at the moment,” she added.

Jill Miller, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said it was up to employers to find and remove the barriers to progression for different ethnic groups to allow people to reach their potential at work.

“HR has a key role to play in providing insight about the workforce which can inform how existing workplace structures, culture and behaviours need to be overhauled,” she said, adding that the research showed the need for a tailored approach to the specific issues faced by different ethnic minority groups.

Changes in the workplace were “an essential component of wider societal change on race equality,” Miller said. “The fact that inequalities in progression opportunities clearly have an impact on the choices people have available in later life is yet another pressing reason for immediate employer action.”

Employers could start by making ethnic diversity initiatives more accessible for older workers, said Andrews. “A lot of employers have specific programmes to bring BAME talent into the organisation… Those are often framed for young people either explicitly or implicitly,” she said. “But this [report] is a reminder that there’s quite a big chunk of people, a growing number, who are not white who are older.

“Those BAME talent activities, it would be a good idea to try and make sure they are available to people of all ages and not just the young generation,” she added.

The Centre for Ageing Better’s findings on earnings and retirement age disparities was part of a wider report on the inequalities faced by black and ethnic minority people in later life.