Too often, a conversation about rising life expectancy and the associated ageing population turns to doom and gloom, with phrases such as ‘demographic time bomb’ often used.
The reality is that longevity presents a golden opportunity for individuals, business and society. For individuals, the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives is a wonderful thing. For business, what may be surprising is that analysis of labour market statistics show that the over 50s have been the driving force of economic growth over the last decade, responsible for nearly 80% of UK employment growth. This is an incredible statistic, made even more profound when you consider that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) expects there to be an additional 2.5m over 50s in the UK within the next decade.
Simultaneously, the latest ONS labour market data showed 854,000 job vacancies across the UK with a new generational low in the unemployment rate at 3.9%. This presents retailers with an unprecedented challenge of hiring and retaining talented employees.
Combining these trends presents a huge opportunity for progressive employers to find talented employees within the rapidly growing and often ignored audience of over 50s. The current employment rate of 50-64 year olds in the UK is 72.3%, significantly behind the 85.4% found within the 35-49 year old population. A simple 2% increase in the employment rate of 50-64 year olds would bring an extra 250K employees into the workforce.
Most employers we talk to have a diversity and inclusion strategy for gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual preference, but very few are addressing age - which is surprising given the seismic demographic shifts we are seeing. What’s more, the growing size and importance of this audience makes them a valuable customer base for most retailers, with commonly adopted best practice being to reflect the make-up of your local community and customer base in your workforce.
But what jobs and careers are people looking to engage with at this stage of life? At
Rest Less we see a diverse group of candidates over the age of 50, each with their own individual ambitions. Many want to continue to climb the career ladder, others want to scale back, whilst some are looking for a complete change of career.
While many are looking to progress their careers further, we have come across thousands of examples where people are looking to stay active and useful, whilst transitioning into a part-time role. This flexibility presents a natural fit with many retail customer facing roles as it provides businesses with significant flexibility in their staffing capacity.
As always, the true magic comes from having diversity in the workplace, whether that be gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or age. Given the profound societal shifts coming over the next decade, the question to ask yourself is whether you are truly embracing the opportunity presented by engaging with a multi-generational workforce.
By Stuart Lewis
Stuart is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Rest Less (restless.co.uk), the digital community that helps those in their 50s, 60s and beyond find fulfilling opportunities to work, volunteer or find a new career path.
As part of the Better Jobs vision to make retail a career of choice, the British Retail Consortium have launched a new careers website, Rethink Retail. The website features retail case studies from across BRC members designed to inspire those considering retail as a career option.