Record numbers of people in their 50s and older are in part-time work, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics, with one quarter of workers in their 50s working part-time.
In what has been hailed as a paradigm shift in how we view work and retirement, the data reveals that 3.6 million older people are working part-time in the UK: a record high and a 12% increase since 2021. It is also a 26% increase in the past decade and a 56% increase in the past two decades.
At least 40% of workers aged 60 to 64 are part-time, with 66% of workers aged over 65 also working part-time. The state pension age is 66.
Significantly more men aged 66 and older are now working part-time than women: an increase of 22% on 2021 figures.
“Long gone are the days of the linear career path of one or two full-time roles, 9-5 for five decades followed by a sudden stop at retirement. Today the path is winding and offers more choice than ever before – both in career path and working patterns,” said Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less.
“Most midlifers today talk about transitions rather than stopping, with many choosing more of a glide into retirement, than jumping off a cliff into the void – and research continues to show this phasing is beneficial for our health, social connections and overall well-being,” he added.
In an ageing population where one-third of the UK’s workforce are now over 50, age-inclusive policies are no longer a “nice to have” and flexible and part-time working arrangements are an essential part of any employee value proposition, Lewis said.
But Dr Emily Andrews, deputy director for work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Unfortunately, at the moment, part-time work too often means poor-quality work. Increasing the number of decent, high-skill jobs available to part-time workers will be critical to improving UK productivity.
“Employers will be amazed by the kinds of candidates that come forward if they advertise their jobs with a minimum number of hours,” she added. “And allowing people to reduce their hours can help keep good, experienced staff in the business when difficulties arise in their life.”
Chris Walsh, the CEO of Wise Age, the over-50s employment support charity, agreed. “A large proportion of these people won’t be able to get full-time jobs because of institutional ageism, particularly in the recruitment industry.
“They want full-time work and they need it because of the ensuing poverty that arises because of long-term part-time working.”
But Walsh also pointed to a hidden demographic: “There are around about 1 million workers people who are outside the system. They don’t even have part-time work but want to work and are actively looking for work.
“They’re not registered with the DWP because they get pension credit or because they’ve got savings or a partner within work. The DWP won’t give them any financial support so they don’t register it.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added: “Flexible working, including the ability to go part-time when needed, is really important to many 50+ workers. But part-time working isn’t always a sign of flexibility: many older workers want to work full-time but cannot find a suitable role, so tackling ageism to make sure that people can access appropriate opportunities should go hand-in-hand with encouraging flexibility.”