Figures show signs of ‘unretirement’, but mainly in the over 65s

Analysis of ONS statistics shows a number of older workers have been ‘unretiring’ in the last year, but the increase in the number of 50+ people who are moving out of economic inactivity is less than 1%.

Older man looking serious


The economic activity levels of older workers have started to rise since last year, but mainly for those over 65, according to new analysis.

There has been much concern about older workers dropping out of the workforce since the Covid pandemic began reversing a previous trend towards more older people staying in the workforce.

But in the past year over 50s digital community Rest Less says economic activity has been rising and is currently at  10,974,000 – the highest level since January to March 2020.

ONS figures shows there was an increase in economic activity of 116,000 amongst workers aged over 50 in the past year (March-May 2022 versus March-May 2021).  Driving more than half of the total increase were men aged over 65 (whose economic activity levels increased by 66,000 – or 8.5% in a year).  Economic activity levels amongst women over 65 increased by 37,000 – an increase of 6.8%.  Economic activity levels amongst those aged 50-64 increased by 0.13%.

The Office of National Statistics, issued in March 2022, asked more than 12,000 50-70 year olds who were not currently looking for work if they would consider going back to work in the future.  One in three (33%) 50-64 year olds and one in 10 (10%) of 65+ year olds said they would.

A June Rest Less poll of 500 of its retired members found 32%  said they would consider returning to work at some point or that they were already working again after retirement.  Of the respondents who said they would consider going back to work, 32% said they’d return for the mental and social stimulation, 12% said they’d return because of increases in the cost of living and 8% said to top up their pensions.  47% said it would be a mix of all of these reasons.

Stuart Lewis, Chief Executive of Rest Less, said: “An early retirement can often seem like a dream when you’re stuck in the thick of the daily grind but for many, giving up work abruptly can also result in a loss of structure, social connections and purpose which can leave people feeling lost at times.  For example, we often forget just how much of our social network and contacts come from the work environment.

“At the same time, with spiraling inflation and volatile financial markets impacting pension funds, some people who thought they could retire comfortably during the pandemic are now having to unretire and find work again to bring in some extra income and top up their pensions whilst they still can.”


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