How many UK pensioners are working - and what are they doing?

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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Image source, Alamy

A think tank is recommending collecting National Insurance payments from people over the state pension age who are still in work. But how many older people actually have a job?

It's the dream of millions - downing tools or abandoning the keyboard for a life of relaxation and enjoyment.

But not everyone who reaches state pension age in the UK actually retires. Whether for economic reasons, or the desire to stay in employment, many continue to earn a wage.

The Resolution Foundation think tank suggests that this group should continue paying National Insurance - from which most are currently exempt - to help fund a one-off £10,000 payment to all 25-year-olds. This, it argues, will make life more "fair" for "millennials" (people born between 1981 and 2000), allowing them to pay for a deposit on a home, start a business or improve their education or skills.

But how many people are keeping going beyond the state pension age - currently 65 for men and roughly 64 and a half for women?

According to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, for December 2017 to February 2018, just under 1.2 million people over the age of 65 were in work - or 10.2% of the entire age group.

That's out of a total UK workforce of 32.3 million.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Sydney Prior (photographed aged 95 in 2009) worked at B&Q until shortly before his death in 2012

When the figures for over-65s were first collected, in spring 1992, there were just 478,000 in work - or 5.5% of the age group. So, the proportion in employment has almost doubled since then.

There has been a steady increase over the years, rather than any spike occurring after 2011, when the default retirement age - which allowed employers to impose compulsory retirement - ended.

Gender divide?

Of the people of pensionable age who still work, 742,000 are men - that's 13.7% of the age group. The percentage has risen from 8.5% in 1992.

Some 454,000 women over the age of 65 also continue to work - or 7.2%. That rate has more than doubled since 1992, when it was 3.5%.

The information on what jobs older workers are actually doing - and how many hours they do - is less up-to-date.

Jobs and hours

According to the 2011 Census, 16.7% of the over-65 workforce in England and Wales were employed either in the wholesale or retail trade. This was the largest category.

Meanwhile, 11.8% worked in health or social work, 9.7% in manufacturing, 9.4% in education and 7.8% professional, scientific and technical jobs.

Construction, with its physical demands, might not seem a likely fit for many over-65s, but it employed 7.7% of those still work at that age.

Image source, Getty Images

The 2011 Census also found that, of people aged 65 and over in England and Wales, those in London were most likely to have jobs. Those in north-east England had the lowest employment rate.

Overall, 57.3% were employed part-time, and 42.7% full-time. And 34.2% of all older workers were self-employed.