Skip to content

Video: Older Workers in the Labour Market

Released: 13 June 2012

This is a short video looking at older workers in the labour market.

Firstly bringing up this chart we will look at the older workers, those working at state pension age or above since 1993.

This first line here shows the total number of older workers within the UK and it uses the left hand scale.

This next line shows the % of older workers in employment, known as the employment rate over the same period using the right hand scale.

What we can see is that in 1993 there were around 753 thousand workers in the UK working at state pension age and above. This represented around 7.6 per cent of all people of that age group. Moving on through the years and looking at 2011 the number in employment has almost doubled and there were 1.4 million workers aged state pension age or above with the percentage standing at 12 per cent.

We have also seen population growth for the older people over the past two decades, increasing from 9.9 million to 11.7 million which reflects more older workers. But we have also seen the percentage of them in work increase, showing that employment growth has been faster than population growth.

If we now fade out this chart

and then concentrate on the the final quarter of 2011, we will now look at the employment status of older workers, using this chart.


Bringing on the bars and comparing the % above and below State Pension Age who are self-employed or an employee we can see that a higher percentage of people in employment for the older workers are self-employed, 32 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. The consequence is that a lower percentage of them are employees, 68 per cent compared to 87 per cent for those aged younger.


Now we will look at the working pattern of older workers using this pie chart. What the numbers show is that for those working in the older age group, around 1 in 3 works full-time and the majority do so in a part-time role, or around 2 in every 3.

Now we will look at the length of time those aged state pension age and above have been with their current employer using this pie chart.


What we see is that around 6.7 per cent have been working for less than two years, 12.8 per cent have been working with the current employer for 2 to 5 years, 18.0 per cent working for between 5 to 10 years. The majority, at 62.5 per cent have been working with their employer for 10 years more. This shows that while individuals move towards working part-time at state pension age and over when at the older age they tend to be doing it with the long term employer.


Looking at the size of the firm that individuals are working in, using this chart and now adding on the bars, the key message here if we dim the other bars is that the older workers tend to be concentrated more in smaller firms than their younger counterparts, 51 per cent compared to 35 per cent.


Now we will look at some differences by gender and firstly of the 1.4 million older workers in the final quarter of 2011, if we use this pie chart we can see that around 39 per cent of them were men and 61 per cent of them women.


Looking in a little more detail at the types of job they are working in, using this chart here and splitting jobs up into high and low skill, we see that of the men in employment around 67 per cent of them are in the higher skill jobs and for women the majority are in lower skill jobs.


Finally we will look at differences across the country, starting off by using this bar chart. Here are the bars for the different regions and the dotted line shows the UK average, which stands at around 12 per cent.


The pattern is similar to those working up to state pension age, with the lowest rates of employment in the North East and the highest in the South East but also London, which is different to what we see for those working below state pension age, where London ranks 8th of the regions in terms of the employment rate.

This may reflect the higher cost of living in London, which might provide an incentive for older workers to work on rather than retire. Additionally, there tends to be a migratory drift out of London for the older population post retirement such that a higher proportion of those remaining are more likely to be economically active.


We can see things more clearly using this map where the darker areas have a higher percentage in employment. If we draw this dotted line we can see the darkest areas are below the line and the lightest areas above.

The video shows that:

  • The number of people of state pension age and above in employment has nearly doubled over the past two decades, from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4 million in 2011.

  • Older workers are far more likely to be self-employed than their younger counterparts: 32 per cent compared with 13 per cent.

  • Around two-thirds of the older workers are part-time but they are generally doing this shorter roles with the same employer. Eight in every 10 of older workers have been with their employer for five years or more.

  • Men working later in life tend to stay on in higher skill roles while women tend to stay on in lower skill roles.

  • Just over a half (51 per cent) of older workers are in small organisations of fewer than 25 employees

  • Across the country, London and the South East have the highest percentages of people aged above state pension age in employment and the North East has the lowest.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.