The world of work was so simple and predictable for our parents’ generation. They acquired a set of skills that they used throughout their working lives, with one or perhaps two employers, until they were 60 or 65 when they collected their carriage clock or Goblin Teasmade on their way out the door, towards retirement.
That certainty of employment, enjoyed by Baby Boomers, has now disappeared along with the large industrial and manufacturing employers that, often sustained entire communities.
Now we acquire skills like a new pair of trousers that may or may not be relevant this time next year; reskilling and relearning as we go, depending on the ever-changing needs of the economy.
Consequently, we don’t know when or if we’ll ever retire and we no longer need a carriage clock or a Teasmade because we all have smartphones and there’s a Starbucks on every corner.
The changing nature of working practices, and society in general, is reflected in the publication of a new report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
It surveyed more than 12,000 people over the age of 50 and found that a large proportion (78%) want employers to introduce more flexible working hours to allow them to continue working beyond retirement.
Introducing more part-time roles (73%) and offering training to help with new technology and skills (63%), were the most popular ways that employers could be more accommodating for older workers.
It used to be argued that working beyond retirement age was selfish because you were denying jobs to younger generations.
In the future, those not working beyond retirement age may be accused of selfishness, expecting younger generations to foot the bill for their inactivity.
Yet the government report suggests there’s less resistance among people to the idea of working into their seventies and even eighties than we might suppose. If anything, older people feel discriminated against at the thought of ageing themselves out of the jobs market.
Half of over 50s believe their age might hold them back when applying for a job and one in seven said they’d been turned down for work due to their age, according to research by the Centre for Ageing Better (CfAB).
Almost one in five said they’d hidden or considered hiding their age when applying for a job since turning 50 and a third felt they’d been offered fewer opportunities for training and promotion.
There’s a huge economic incentive to encouraging people to work longer. Halving the employment gap among people aged over 50 could generate an additional £20billion-a-year, according to the CfAB which wants employers to be more inclusive of older workers
Creating more flexible working practices is a first positive step and the government is already looking at introducing a duty on employers to consider whether a job can be carried out flexibly when advertising a role.
The Flexible Working Taskforce was launched earlier this year to promote wider understanding of the benefits of flexible working practices; develop action plans; and make recommendations that will feed into the evaluation of the Right to Request Flexible Working Regulations in 2019.
The ability to work from home and to work out of office hours would be a great benefit to older people, particularly if they have other family or caring responsibilities. And not having to be up for a 9am start is another reason why they will no longer need that Teasmade.