You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

A woman's work is never done: twice as many still going at 65

The Guardian logo The Guardian 22/03/2019 Amelia Hill

Dee Flower tried to retire last year, at the age of 68. It seemed, the former recruitment specialist said, like a good idea. “I found myself thinking, ‘I guess it’s about time to retire now.’”

Flower’s decision to reverse the move a month later is one of the reasons the British economy set a new employment record this week. The number of people employed in the UK is at its highest since records began in 1971 – 32.7 million people – and workers over the age of 50 are a key factor in the peak.

Describing her U-turn, Flower added: “I thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I done? I don’t want to retire!’ I felt I’d lost my sense of purpose.”

Still ambitious for a challenge, however, Flower decided not to return to her old job. “I felt I needed to think about something completely different,” she said.

Flower attended job fairs, and after eight months joined the Sussex-based autism charity, Little Gate Farm, as a consultant, promoting their young people to employers.

© Gary Burchell “My new line managers are the same age as my children,” she said. “And that’s completely fine with me. In fact, it’s great. I feel so much happier now than when I was retired.”

Flower also represents another twist to the official job figures. According to new research, twice as many women over the age of 65 are employed in the workplace today compared with a decade ago.

The increase announced this week largely occurred among those between the ages of 50 and 64 years, with 245,000 more older people employed. Separate research has confirmed that people aged 50 and over have made up nearly 80% of the total employment growth over the past decade. Still further research found one in three workers would be 50 or over by 2024.

© Alistair Berg But the employment rate of women over the age of 65 represents the fastest growth in any age sector, increasing over the same time from 4.7% to 7.9%, an increase of 67%. However, some of the stories behind the statistic are not as positive as Flower’s.

“Tragically, 45% of women we surveyed who plan to work beyond their state pension age said it was because they simply cannot afford to retire,” said Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, which offers work and volunteering opportunities for the over-50s.

“The state pension age might be approaching equality, but the career options for many women in the UK are not. Many still find themselves as the primary carers in a family environment.

“Add to this the fact that in 2017, the number of divorces where the woman was over 60 reached its highest level since 1972, meaning many women find themselves increasingly financially exposed in their later years,” he added.

Linda Roberts, 67, cannot afford to retire from her full-time job as a carer at a day centre for people with learning difficulties in Rhymney, south Wales. Her crippling arthritis, however, means at some point she will be physically unable to carry on working.

“My state pension is around £600 a month and I need at least £1,000 to cover the absolute basics,” said Roberts, a supporter of the backto60.com campaign demanding that the women’s state pension returns to 60 for women born in the 1950s. In November, the state pension age for women rose to 65 to match that of men, and there are further rises planned, to 66, 67 and 68, for both men and women. The rise in the state pension age for women has moved the goalposts for those who planned to retire at 60, but then found they would have to wait until 65 before applying for their pension.

“I’m very sad that I have to still work despite my age,” said Roberts. “When I get too old or my arthritis gets too bad for me to work, I don’t know how we’ll survive.”

Britain is ageing: in 1997, around one in every six people was 65 or over. By 2017, that had increased to one in every five. By 2037, projections are that one in every four people will be 65 or over.

But pensioner poverty is now rising, after falling steadily for nearly two decades, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently warned. One in six pensioners is living in poverty as a result of declining home ownership, soaring rents and the benefits freeze, the charity said.

George McNamara, director of policy at Independent Age, said his charity sees “more and more older women beyond retirement age needing to work to make ends meet”.

© Gary Burchell Labour market expert Stephen Clarke, from the Resolution Foundation thinktank, has looked at recent employment trends for different groups, including older women. He said the positive reasons for women working into their late 60s and beyond shouldn’t be overlooked.

“The rise in women aged 65 and over in the workplace is partly down to improvements in health and access to work,” he said. “Today’s 65-plus-year-olds are healthier and so more able and keen to work than before. Added to that, the strong labour market has got better at pulling in and making accommodations for those who previously found it hard to stay in the workplace, like workers past their pension age.”

Gallery: 31 simple tips to protect you from fraud [Photos]

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon