The average retirement age rose by one year between 2004 and 2010, bringing the age at which men stop working in line with the state pension for the first time in 26 years.The average retirement age for men has risen from 63.8 years seven years ago to 64.6 years in 2010, according to data released by the ONS, while women’s average retirement age rose from 61.2 years to 62.3 years during the same period. As a boss, I think this is fantastic news and should be seen as a real opportunity for businesses. We all know the reasons why older people are in this situation. The catastrophic tax raid on pensions by Gordon Brown in 1997 has left a lot of people in a financial situation where they cannot afford to retire. There is also the increased life expectancy of current and future generations, which means there are more over-60s in the job market. A couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister raised the prospect of further increases to the state pension age by suggesting that it should be automatically adjusted in line with rising life expectancy. It is reckoned that by 2051, the average man will live 25.9 years beyond his 65th birthday, which really puts David Cameron’s comments in perspective. So, like any good entrepreneur, a business owner has to look at this as a positive and exploit the opportunity. In my business, more than 20 per cent of my workforce are members of the so-called “silver army”. We have a group of tradespeople, office-based professionals and support staff all over the age of 60, who make a very positive contribution to our business. I’d encourage any employer to take advantage of older workers if they can; they are valuable assets to any business. Of course, anyone who knows me or reads this column regularly will know that I am also a huge advocate of supporting young people’s entry into the workplace. And, as everyone knows, we have a considerable youth unemployment problem. However, the two issues shouldn’t be mutually exclusive; in fact, I think they should support each other. Any business that takes on apprentices or trainees should also have a group of experienced over-60s who can work alongside the young people, giving them the kind of support and advice they would never find in any classroom, textbook or training centre. Charlie Mullins grew up on an estate in South London and left school with no qualifications. He started Pimlico Plumbers in 1979, after completing a four-year plumbing apprenticeship. The company employs 150 professional plumbers and turns over more than £16m a year.
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