Record number of over-65s in employment, data reveals

Figures show increase in older workers joining labour market was widely driven by uptick in part-time work

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The number of over 65-year-olds in employment has reached a record level, analysis has shown.

According to data from the Labour Force Survey published by the Office for National Statistics, between April and June 2022, the number of people aged 65 and over in employment increased by a record 173,000 on the previous quarter, to reach 1.468 million – another record level.

The number of 65-year-olds and older in work stood at 1.288 million between April and June 2021 and at 1.404 million the previous quarter of 2022.


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In addition, pay as you earn (PAYE) real time information (RTI) data (which includes self-employed workers) indicated a steady rise in payrolled employees over time, apart from a drop early during the coronavirus pandemic, and an increase of 34,000 workers since January 2022, reaching 1.074 million in July 2022. 

The statistics showed the change was widely driven by an uptick in people starting part-time work, as those who joined employment worked relatively few hours, which saw the average hours worked for those aged 65 and over fall in the last quarter.

The number of part-time employees between April and June 2022 increased by 85,000 (17.7 per cent) and the part-time self-employed increased by 76,000 (28.7 per cent).


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The rise in the number of part-time self-employed aged 65 years and over also drove an uptick in total part-time self-employment for people aged 16 years and over.

Commenting on the findings, Mandy Watson, managing director of recruitment company Ambitions Personnel, said the return of older employees to the workforce was “not really surprising”. Looking into the reasons for this growth, she said: “Starting with the pandemic, some industries even reached out to retirees to step back into their roles to help plug a skills shortage. It's also possible that some felt duty-bound to 'do their bit' to help out.” 

In addition, Watson emphasised that, amid the current cost of living crisis, “some sadly haven't had the luxury of choice”.

The industries where informal employment is more common saw some of the largest increases. This included education (up 35,000), accommodation and food services (up 27,000) and other services such as arts, entertainment and recreation (up 27,000).

Furthermore, the findings showed the sectors those aged 65 years and over were most likely to be engaged with in the data period were health and social work (12.7 per cent), followed by wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles (11 per cent), education (10.6 per cent) and professional, scientific and technical activities (9.6 per cent). These preferences remained little changed on the previous quarter. 

When it comes to the amount of hours worked, between April and June 2022, those aged 65 years and over worked an average of 21.7 hours per week, with those who joined employment during this time working relatively few hours – which resulted in a decrease of 0.7 hours from the 22.3 hours worked between January and March 2022.

Those working zero hours during the reference week (because of sickness or holiday leave, for instance) increased by almost a third (30.7 per cent) over the quarter, and those working between one and 30 hours per week increased by 20.2 per cent. 

At the same time, the number of people working very long hours (more than 45 hours per week) increased, offset by a decrease in those working between 31 and 45 hours per week (down 6.8 per cent). 

Despite this fall in average hours worked, the total weekly hours worked by those aged 65 years and over rose by three million on the previous quarter, to 31.962 million, as a result of the increase in employment for this age group.

Suggesting options for employers to attract and support older employees, Watson said that “from an attraction perspective, the first step is to review how and where recruiters go about their onboarding – ensuring the adverts are written in a language which is free from any bias”.

"Supporting a diverse workforce can be a tricky one to get right, but flexibility is key – employers have to consider things they haven't before, but then, these are unprecedented times we're living in," she said.