Opinion

Do us all a favour and let older people stay in work

4 min read

20 May 2013

Retirement has been one of the main talking points of the last couple of weeks. Particularly in the world of football, where Sir Alex Ferguson and, more recently, David Beckham said their goodbyes.

The topic has also again been a point of debate in the business world after Institute of Economic Affairs and the Age Endeavour Partnership published their research paper, “Work Longer, Live Healthier”.

Anyone who knows me or has read this column will know that I’m a huge advocate for older workers and the benefits, both to individuals and their employers, of continuing to work after reaching the age of 65.

There are the obvious arguments: that there is no substitute for experience and the advice and guidance older workers offer to their young colleagues. But there is also the economic outlook of the country to consider.

I often think that forcing people to retire has a knock on effect on our economy as a whole. We have an aging population now so working past the traditional retirement age is the way things are going.

Quite simply, if we pushed on with statutory retirement we’ll have a population made up of more pensioners than workers. 

The IEA’s director general, Mark Littlewood set it out excellently in his article in the Times last week when he explained that there are currently four people of working age for every retiree but, by the mid-point of the 21st Century, we could find ourselves with just two workers for each pensioner.

With such a massive amount of pensioners to support, the country would struggle, no matter how well the chancellor does to improve the economy. Based on that suggestion there is no other option than for older people to keep on working and in my mind it brings more advantages than problems.

The crux of the IEA’s paper, although the title is a bit of a giveaway, is that there are more benefits of staying in work. The research says that, from a health perspective, the longer people spend in retirement the greater they can feel its downsides.

Retired people are 40 per cent less likely to describe themselves as being in excellent or very good health compared with people who remain in work, the paper says. And don’t just believe the statistics! I employ a few guys over the age of 60 and they say it’s the work that keeps them healthy. Just ask “young Eric”, my 80-year-old driver who handles my Bentley on the streets of London like it’s a Fiat 500, or my 71-year-old PA, Mario Rebellato who supplements his work at Pimlico Plumbers with being an ultra-distance runner.

So let’s embrace older workers for their experience, skills and dedication and, as employers, do our bit for the economy and society. Creating flexible employment laws, as Mark Littlewood suggests, is one way of encouraging businesses to make better use of the country’s older workers.

As Mark and his team suggest, it will not only help the economy, but also help older workers become happier, healthier and wealthier – it can only be a win-win situation!

Charlie Mullins is founder and CEO of Pimlico Plumbers.