Older workers affected by declining hours

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While employment rates are up the number of hours worked has fallen for older age groups

The average number of hours worked by older people has fallen since the 2008 recession, according to Age UK.

Its Behind the headlines: Why the employment rate does not tell the whole story about working longer report reveals that while employment rates for older workers have increased in the UK since the 2008 recession, the number of hours worked on average by older workers has declined.

For a typical 60- to 64-year-old man the hours have dropped by an average of eight hours, which is more than 22%. In the 50 to 54 age group there's been a 29% decline in average hours worked each week since the recession, from 42.25 to 30. For women aged 50 to 54 there's been an 18% drop, from 29.3 to 24.1 hours.

The research states that it's not possible to say for sure whether this reduction in hours is a good sign indicating an increase in flexible working, with people choosing to wind down their hours as they age. However, Age UK said many people do not have this luxury, and that flexible working is used more as a tool by employers to manage hours on their terms.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the gig economy could be having a “real impact” on older workers.

“It is certainly true that the numbers of older people in employment are rising but the fact that on average they are working fewer hours is an important qualification,” she said. “Our research suggests this may be less through choice and more a consequence of the changing labour market, with issues such as the rise in self-employment and the so-called ‘gig economy’ starting to have a real impact.

“It is well-known that many younger workers are finding themselves part of the ‘precariat’ – people whose work is highly insecure and unpredictable, often against their wishes – and now we are seeing evidence of the same thing happening to some older workers too.”

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