Shift needed in workforce

Older workers required to fill looming jobs gap

Jane WoodEmployers across Scotland are being urged to do more to retain and recruit older workers.

Over the last ten years the number of people working over the age of 50 across the UK has increased by 2.5 million.

By 2022, the UK economy will need to fill 14.5 million job vacancies created by people leaving the workforce and by new positions being created.

It is estimated that there will only be seven million young people available to fill them – leaving a labour shortage of 7.7 million people.

Currently, one million older people who are not in work want to work and if just half of these were to move into employment GDP would increase by up to £88 billion a year.

At a Business in the Community Scotland (BITC Scotland) round table in Edinburgh Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employment and Training, met a number of Scottish businesses, including Scottish Water, BT, Barclays and Glenmorangie to discuss examples of best practice. 

The event coincides with the launch of Business in the Community’s new report, Age in the Workplace, which is supported by the Centre for Ageing Better and advises employers on how to implement practical changes to create age friendly workplaces.

The report focuses on three key themes – Retain, Retrain and Recruit – and shares good practice, with recommendations for a more inclusive workforce in which employees in later life can continue to make a valuable contribution.

Examples include ensuring all line managers are offered adequate training and guidance relevant to managing the careers of people at all ages and stages of their careers, enabling remote working or flexible hours to support people working longer and investigating best practice in offline recruitment methods.

Enabling older people to stay in work will bring benefits to individuals, to businesses and to the UK economy.

Mr Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government is acutely alert to the challenge of supporting our multi-generational workforce.

“Changing demographics and an ageing population is a good sign of the progress we have made through better health services and advances in medicine, but also create challenges and opportunities in the labour market for us all to respond to.

“Business in the Community’s Age in the Workplace report highlights the need for Scotland’s businesses to understand the nature of a labour market where people are working longer, share best practice when it comes to retention, and support the retraining and recruitment of our older workers as well as our apprentices.

“It is great to see the organisation convening its Scottish business members as we look to take forward the Labour Market Strategy I published in August.”

Jane Wood,  managing director, Business in the Community Scotland (pictured), said: “As the convening body for responsible business in Scotland, Business in the Community Scotland is working together with business leaders and the Scottish Government to ensure that retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers remains a priority in policy and practice.

“Through our movement, we understand the barriers to employment, from early years deprivation to gender and age bias, and we will continue to seek the insight and example of Scotland’s leading businesses minds in order to ensure that the responsible business agenda in Scotland remains a sustainable model.”

Rachael Saunders, age at work director, Business in the Community, said: “The shift to an ageing workforce needs to be harnessed by business. Retaining, retraining and recruiting older workers is critical to this.

“We no longer have a default retirement age but established social norms entrenched over a long period of time must be addressed to ensure that recruitment and progression are fair for men and women of all ages.

“Real change is needed to address age bias and discrimination which are barriers to fulfilling work in later life.”

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