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Changing demographics in the workplace...

Although the world of work is, in a constant state of flux at any given time, the Government has predicted that it is the changing age profile of the workforce that will provide the most significant development in the UK labour market in the coming years. Note that a third of workers will be over 50 by 2020 and, within another 20 years, almost a quarter of the population will be aged 65 or over. With this in mind, a lot of businesses around the UK are currently prepping for this scenario...

The 'younger old' already walk among us. Au fait with social media and the smart phone, the older generation can hold their own in much more youthful environments than the generation that passed before them - and that includes the office. The digital age we live in, which dominates the commercial world, is no longer the preserve of the young and many workplaces are already embracing a mixed labour force to reflect this state of play.

An ageing workforce isn't such big news. After all, It's been mooted for some time that people should expect to work up to and beyond the accepted age of retirement. General life expectancy is increasing and individuals are now faced with far lengthier periods of retirement, with proportionally less pension provision.

Workers are currently more likely to be encouraged to stay in the labour market while employers, equally, are being primed to value and encourage their older members of staff by making their work feasible and offering a greater degree of flexibility.

Recent legislation has been established to ensure that employers can't dismiss workers on the grounds of age - a practice more evident in particular sectors, with even the BBC being called to account in a couple of high profile cases. Welcome to most, the new legislation is further proof of the changes that are afoot.

Changing the dynamic of the workforce and retaining and employing older faces is, of course, driven, in the main, by economics. Working later in life is becoming a necessity to many.

We live in a throwaway society and continue to be avid consumers until we die; our children stay at home longer and / or need help getting on the housing ladder; we have to pay for further education for our young or supplement their cost of living in some way and pensions funds are shrinking. Realistically, there's not much choice. There are already many who have to work beyond retirement age and this pattern is set to continue.

It's not just a one-sided requirement either. The rest of society needs older people to work longer. If more young people engage with higher education, there will be a gap and the pension contributions of the workforce will drop without older people to help out. Similarly, the increasing life expectancy age means that there is more pressure on those of working age to support retirees. Having a population that works until it's older reduces the burden for everyone.

And, of course, there are the added benefits to consider when we open the doors to an older workforce and create a more blended working place. It's the older workers that can set the tone and provide the example. They are usually more loyal and reliable in the main and they also have precious knowledge. They are more likely to know the business better than you are and will certainly give those fresh out of higher education a run for their money whatever their qualifications are.

Age and experience often trump education; the best outcome would be to engage a good mix of both in order to dish up a whole new productive vibe.


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