Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a significant shift in the U.K.’s employment landscape: a record number of individuals who are 50 and older are now engaged in part-time work.
As highlighted by The Guardian, 25% of workers in their 50s are part-time, and the total number of older part-time workers has reached a staggering 3.6 million. This marks a 12% increase since 2021 and a 56% surge over the past two decades.
These demographic changes are not statistical anomalies, as they represent a broader change in how people perceive work and retirement. Rather than abruptly ending their careers, many are choosing a gradual transition into retirement. This phased approach is not only a matter of personal choice, but has been linked to improved health, social connections, and overall well-being.
However, this trend also brings to light some challenges. In the U.K., there’s a pressing need to increase the availability of high-skill part-time positions in the workforce to boost the country’s overall productivity. This leads experts like Dr. Emily Andrews, deputy director for work at the Centre for Ageing Better, to express concerns that part-time roles often equate to lower-quality jobs for the aging workforce.
The rise of older employees remaining in the workforce adds to another chief concern: institutional ageism in job recruitment — which often prevents older individuals from securing full-time roles. This type of workplace discrimination can push professionals into part-time work, and potential financial instability.
As the U.K.’s workforce ages, with one-third now over the age of 50, the rise in part-time employment among older workers is a trend that’s likely to persist in the coming years. Addressing the underlying challenges, such as ageism and the quality of part-time roles, will be important.