1. Main points

  • Around 10% (934,000) of the population aged 65 and over were in employment in 2011, representing 3.5% of all people in employment

  • More than half (57.3%, or 536,000) of these older workers worked part time and more than a third (34.2%, or 320,000) were self employed in 2011. In proportional terms these figures are much higher than for those in employment under the age of 65 (28.2% and 14.7%, respectively)

  • The older workforce was particularly important in the South West in 2011 where 4.4% of all workers were aged 65 and over

  • London, in 2011, had the highest proportion of its 65 and over population in employment, 12.9%, compared to the 10.1% average across England and Wales. The lowest percentage was in the North East at 6.4%

  • According to the ONS Longitudinal Study, more than 1 in 10 of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 were not in employment in 2001

  • The reasons for non-employment in 2001 varied, while 38.4% of women and 33.0% of men were retired, the next most common reasons were, for women, because they were looking after the home or family and, for men, because they were sick or disabled

  • The percentage of women aged between 65 and 74 who were in employment in 2011 but not in 2001 was around twice that for men at this age

  • Almost half of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 who were also in employment in 2001 had moved from longer to shorter hours, this included about a third of workers in this this age group who had moved from full-time to part-time employment

  • Just under half of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 who were also employed ten years earlier had moved between different types of industry between 2001 and 2011. This was most evident for those employed in Public Administration and Defence in 2011 where almost two-thirds had worked in a different industry in 2001

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2. Introduction

The monthly ONS labour market statistical release 1 includes up to date statistics about the economic activity of people aged 65 and over. Another recent release looked at the participation rates of older people in the labour market in 2014 and found that almost half of those working past State Pension Age were doing so because they were not ready to stop work.

This analysis includes more detail than can be obtained from the monthly release by using data from the 2011 Census and the ONS Longitudinal Study. The ONS Longitudinal Study contains linked census and vital event data for 1% of the population of England and Wales. Information from each census from 1971 onwards has been linked across censuses together with information on events such as births, deaths and cancer registrations.

The larger sample size of the census allows for regional and local analyses of workers in this age group while the Longitudinal Study gives an insight into the characteristics of such workers 10 years earlier, at the time of the 2001 Census.

Therefore, this analysis provides additional detail about older workers for users of labour market data such as:

  • MPs and other policy makers

  • local government

  • organisations that focus on older people and/or employment matters

  • researchers and academics

  • journalists

  • businesses

  • members of the public

Data from the census indicated that, in March 2011, there were over 883,000 people aged 65 and over in employment in England, with almost 51,000 in Wales. These totals were equivalent to, 10.2% and 9.0% of the total populations in this age group, respectively. In England, 3.5% of those in employment in 2011 were aged 65 and over, while in Wales the figure was 3.7%.

Almost 536,000 people aged 65 and over in England and Wales were in part-time employment in 2011. This was 57.3% of total employment in this age group, more than double the equivalent percentage of workers aged 16 to 64 (28.2%).

Nearly 320,000 people aged 65 and over were self-employed (34.2% of those in employment at this edge), almost 547,000 (58.5%) were men and just over 387,000 (41.5%) were women. The percentages of self-employment and male employment among this age group were higher than for those in employment aged 16 to 64 in 2011, where 14.7% were self-employed and 52.7% were male.

Notes for introduction

  1. Table A05 of the monthly release includes UK data on employment, unemployment, economic activity and economic inactivity by sex and age group, including for those aged 65 and over.
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3. Regional differences in employment of older workers

There were almost 934,000 people in employment aged 65 and over in England and Wales in 2011, Table 1 shows the contributions of each English region and of Wales to this total. It provides the context for the Longitudinal Study analysis that follows. A more detailed regional table can downloaded from the data section of this publication.

The second column of data in Table 1 highlights the percentage of residents of an area aged 65 and over who were in employment in 2011 (the employment rate for this age group) while the third column of data shows the contribution of residents of this age group to overall employment in an area.

In 2011 the employment rate for those aged 65 and over was highest in London (12.9%), with the South East (11.8%), East of England (11.1%) and South West (11.0%) all having a rate of 11% or more. Wales (9.0%) and the other 5 English regions had employment rates for this age group of below 10%, with the North East (6.4%) having the lowest.

Among English regions and Wales, the South West had the largest percentage of people in employment in 2011 aged 65 and over (4.4%), followed by the South East (4.1%) and East of England (4.0%), with the North East having the lowest (2.5%).

Among people aged 65 and over in employment, Wales (39.2%) and the South West (38.6%) had the highest percentages of self-employment in 2011, with the North East having the lowest (29.5%). In every English region and in Wales the majority of workers aged 65 and over worked part-time, with the percentage working part-time lowest in London (51.0%) and Wales (52.6%) and highest in the South West (59.7%) and South East (59.5%). There was very little regional variation in the male-female breakdown of older workers as the final two columns indicate.

Data from the 2011 Census included a breakdown of employment by age and industry1. Information was available for 15 industries but, as Figure 1 highlights, 6 were responsible for more than 60% of the employment of people aged 65 and over in England and Wales in 2011. This was true in every English region, in Wales they made up 58.5% of such employment.

The percentages of employment among older people in these industries in 2011 were fairly similar in most regions but London had the highest percentages of older workers of any region in human health and social work activities, professional, scientific and technical activities and education and the lowest in manufacturing, construction and the wholesale and retail trade.

Notes for regional differences in employment of older workers

  1. This analysis uses a classification of industry for the 2011 Census that allows comparisons with the industry of employment in 2001. Section 11 of the Background Notes has further detail.
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4. Changes in the economic activity of older workers 2001-2011

The ONS Longitudinal Study contains linked census and vital event data for 1% of the population of England and Wales. Information from each census from 1971 onwards has been linked across censuses together with information on events such as births, deaths and cancer registrations.

This analysis focuses on the people within the study population who were aged 65 to 74 in 2011, in employment at the time of the 2011 Census, and for whom there is linked information relating to the 2001 Census. Overall, there are more than 9,500 people in these categories within the Longitudinal Study, and, by definition, these only include people who were resident in England or Wales in both 2001 and 2011. The Longitudinal Study allows information about combinations of characteristics of these older workers from both censuses to be presented. Most of the data are presented as percentages of workers in 2011 aged 65 to 74 or of subsets of this population.

The data indicate that more than 1 in 10 (12.8%) 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 had not been in employment 10 years earlier, with most being economically inactive rather than unemployed. As Figure 2 shows, among females the proportion was almost 1 in 5 (18.2%).

The reasons for older workers in 2011 not being in employment in 2001 varied by sex as Figure 3 illustrates. For both sexes, more than a third (36.1%) had been retired 10 years earlier (38.4% of females and 33.0% of males). However, among males the next largest percentage (27.0%) related to those who were sick or disabled in 2001, whereas, for females, 26.7% had been looking after home and/or family.

The Longitudinal Study provides information about workers aged 65 to 74 in 2011 who had also been in employment in 2001 and who had changed their hours worked, employee status or type of workplace in the 10 years between the censuses.

About a third (33.2%) of these older workers had moved from full-time employment to part-time between 2001 and 2011. In addition, 15.7% of older workers had remained in full-time or part-time employment but had moved from the longer to shorter hours band1 in either case. Therefore, in total, almost half (48.9%) of these older workers had moved to a shorter hours band during this 10 year period.

Almost 1 in 10 (9.8%) male workers aged 65 to 74 had moved from employee to self-employment status between 2001 and 2011, compared to 6.6% of female workers of the same age. Similarly, a higher percentage of male workers in this age group were working at or from home in 2011, having worked elsewhere in 2001 (14.4% compared to 10.4% of females).

Notes for changes in the economic activity of older workers 2001-2011

  1. For this analysis the number of hours worked are categorised in 4 bands, 2 within each of part and full-time. See background notes for further detail.
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5. Changes in the characteristics of older workers 2001-2011 by region and nation

In England and Wales, more than 1 in 10 (12.8%) 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 had not been in employment 10 years earlier but, as Figure 5 shows, this proportion varied by region. Wales, the North West and the North East had the highest percentages (18.7%, 17.0% and 16.8%, respectively) but all other regions had 13.1% or less, with the East of England (9.6%) having the lowest.

Almost 1 in 20 (4.8%) 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 had moved between English regions, or from England to Wales or vice versa in the previous 10 years. As Figure 6 shows, the South West and East of England had the highest percentages of older workers in 2011 that had moved elsewhere in this period (7.5% and 7.3%, respectively). More than 1 in 10 (10.4%) older workers who were resident in London in 2001 had moved to another region by 2011, a higher percentage than any other English region or Wales.

Over a quarter (28.5%) of the total number of moves by older workers that are shown in Figure 6 involved 1 of 3 specific moves between 2001 and 2011:

  • London (2001) to South East (2011), 10.4%

  • London (2001) to East of England (2011), 10.0%

  • South East (2001) to South West (2011), 8.0%

This is consistent with information in an earlier census analysis 1, which highlighted that moves by persons aged 65 and over in the year to 2011 into the South East, South West and East of England were most likely to be from, respectively, London, the South East and London.

There was little geographical variation in the percentages of older workers who had moved from full to part-time employment between 2001 and 2011, as Table 2 indicates. The percentages ranged from 30.3% in Wales to 34.6% in the East of England. The percentages of older workers who had moved from employee to self-employment ranged from 6.9% in Yorkshire and The Humber to 9.7% in the East Midlands.

Notes for changes in the characteristics of older workers 2001-2011 by region and nation

  1. Internal and International Migration of Older Residents (aged 65 and over) in England and Wales in the Year Prior to the 2011 Census, Table 2 includes specific region to region moves.
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6. Changes in the characteristics of older workers 2001-2011 by industry

The percentages of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 who had not been in employment 10 years earlier varied by industry, as Figure 7 shows. The industries with the highest percentages of such workers in 2011 were accommodation and food service activities (17.8%) and public administration and defence (16.6%).

The industries in Figure 7 include some combinations of smaller industry sections1 that correspond to how industries were classified in the Longitudinal Study for the 2001 Census. This allows for estimates of the percentages of older workers who have changed industry from 2001 to 2011.

Overall, just under half (47.6%) of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in 2011 who were also employed in 2001 had moved between types of industry in the 10 years to 2011. Figure 8 shows that this was most evident in Public Administration and Defence where 62.3% had worked in a different industry 10 years earlier. In contrast, only 36.6% of 65 to 74-year-olds in employment in Human Health and Social Work Activities in 2011 had been in a different industry in 2001.

Figure 9 displays the same information but classified by the industry of employment in 2001. This shows that older workers who had been employed in Manufacturing in 2001 were most likely to have changed industry 10 years later, while those working in Education were least likely to have changed.

There was a greater variation by industry in the percentages of older workers who had moved from full-time to part-time employment between 2001 and 2011 than there was by region. The percentages ranged from 19.2% in Agriculture, Energy and Water to 39.0% in public administration and defence.

The percentages of older workers who had moved from employee to self-employment ranged from 5.2% for those employed in Human Health and Social Work Activities in 2011 to 12.8% for those in Financial, real estate, professional and administrative activities.

Notes for changes in the characteristics of older workers 2001-2011 by industry

  1. This analysis uses the 2 classifications of industry that were in existence at the times of the 2001 and 2011 Census. By grouping these classifications into sections and combinations of sections, an overall comparison of the industries of employment of an older worker in the 2 censuses can be made. The Background Notes have further detail.
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7. Local differences in employment of older workers

Regular labour market releases do not provide detailed local authority level data on the employment of people aged 65 and over, the 2011 Census, therefore, is the most recent source of such information. A more detailed table showing data for all local authorities in England and Wales can be downloaded from the data section of this publication and includes information from Tables 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Table 4 highlights areas where those aged 65 and over were most (and least) likely to be in employment. The 5 local authorities with the highest percentage of their population of this age in employment in 2011 had more than double the percentage in England and Wales as a whole and 7 of the top 10 were London boroughs. The top ten also included Hertsmere in Hertfordshire and Uttlesford in Essex, both in counties that border London, and Isles of Scilly, which was ranked first.

Half of the 10 local authorities with the lowest percentage of their population aged 65 and over in employment in 2011 were in the North East, 4 in Wales and 1 in the North West.

While Table 4 highlights the likelihood of older people being in work in an area, Table 5 illustrates the areas where older workers contributed most (and least) to the overall numbers in employment. The rankings reflect a combination of differences in the age profile of an area in 2011 and of levels of economic activity.

The Isles of Scilly had over one-tenth of its workforce aged 65 and over in 2011, by far the largest percentage of any local authority, although West Somerset and Powys also had percentages more than double that of England and Wales as a whole. In general, the areas with the highest percentages of their workers aged 65 and over in 2011 were rural and were not concentrated in a single region; the top 10 included local authorities from Wales and 5 English regions (South West, South East, West Midlands, East of England and Yorkshire and The Humber).

The areas with the smallest percentages of their workers aged 65 and over were urban, with the bottom 4 all having percentages less than half that of England and Wales in total and 5 of the bottom 6 being London boroughs.

Among workers aged 65 and over, the percentages of self-employed varied a great deal by local authority in 2011, with a difference of more than 40 percentage points between the highest and lowest, as Table 6 illustrates. The equivalent range for part-time employment was smaller, but was still almost 30 percentage points, as Table 7 shows.

The 10 areas where self-employment made up the highest percentages of 65 and over employment were rural local authorities with 6 in the South West, 4 of which were in Devon, and 3 in Wales, including the 2 with the highest percentages, Powys and Ceredigion. The areas where the percentages of self-employment among older workers was lowest were those where manufacturing is particularly widespread such as Corby and those where a small number of large employers are particularly important such as, for example, the Ministry of Defence in Rushmoor (Aldershot).

Exeter was the only local authority in England and Wales where more than two-thirds of older workers were part-time in 2011. In general, the areas where part-time workers made up the highest percentages of those aged 65 and over in employment in 2011 were local authorities that were neither entirely rural or within the main urban areas of England and Wales. In contrast, 8 of the 10 local authorities with the highest percentages of full-time working among those in employment aged 65 and over were London boroughs in 2011, (the authorities with the lowest percentages of part-time employment in Table 7).

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8 .Background notes

  1. Relevant table numbers are provided in all download files within this publication. All data tables are available via the Nomis website.

  2. Further information on future releases is available online in the 2011 Census Prospectus.

  3. We have ensured that the data collected meet users' needs via an extensive 2011 Census outputs consultation process in order to ensure that the 2011 Census outputs will be of use in the planning of housing, education, health and transport services in future years.

  4. We are responsible for carrying out the census in England and Wales. Simultaneous but separate censuses took place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These were run by the National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, respectively.

  5. All key terms used in this publication are explained in the 2011 Census glossary. Information on the 2011 Census geography products for England and Wales is also available.

  6. All census population estimates were extensively quality assured, using other national and local sources of information for comparison and review by a series of quality assurance panels. An extensive range of quality assurance, evaluation and methodology papers were published alongside the first release in July 2012.

  7. Permission to use the Longitudinal Study is gratefully acknowledged, as is the help provided by staff of the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information and User Support (CeLSIUS). CeLSIUS is supported by the ESRC Census of Population Programme (Award Ref: ES/K000365/1). The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data."

  8. This work contains statistical data which is Crown Copyright. The use of statistical data in this work does not imply our endorsement in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.

  9. In this analysis, comparisons of the number of hours worked in 2001 and 2011 are categorised into 4 bands within the Longitudinal Study:

    • 15 hours or less (part-time)
    • 16 to 30 hours (part-time)
    • 31 to 48 hours (full-time)
    • 49 hours or more (full-time)
  10. In this analysis, comparisons of industry of employment in 2001 and 2011 in the Longitudinal Study use the following sections and combinations of sections in the 1992 and 2007 Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC):

  11. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk
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Contact details for this Article

Eddie Smith
eddie.smith@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455821