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Over 55s – the great debate on this untapped talent pool


While businesses have spent years trying to perfect their ED&I strategy to bring people of all genders, ethnicities and abilities into the workforce, new research demonstrates one major demographic may have been absent from the conversation.

APSCo OutSource Strategic Partner, 55/Redefined, has issued a new report to market which reveals there are hordes of people over the age of 55 exiting the workforce earlier than they feel ready to because they don’t feel there are enough opportunities available to them.

The figures show that the number of people aged 65 and over will increase by more than 40 per cent in the next 20 years but that by 2050, the working-age population will have actually shrunk by between 21-28 per cent, creating a shortfall of more than 50 million workers. That’s despite people aged between 55 and 75 saying that, on average, they feel between 18 and 20 years younger than their age, and 45 per cent of people aged 55 and over saying they don’t believe they can afford to retire at 65.

The longer this disconnect continues to manifest, the more likely we are to see ageism become a major downfall in ED&I strategies currently in place in businesses around the world, and – worse still – the skills shortage emerging in young people will be mirrored at the top of the age scale.

Our role as outsourced recruiters is to educate the market on the ways in which over 55s talent provide enormous value to businesses looking to fill vacancies, and advise on the strategies they can implement to ensure they’re not missing out on a wealth of eager, relevant talent.

Shut out

The data from 55/Redefined shows:

  • 56 per cent of employees want to continue to work beyond the age of 65, but 65 per cent of employers encourage retirement at the legal retirement age or before
  • 65 per cent of people think no point applying for jobs after 55, assuming the jobs market is closed off to them
  • Employers said health and illness (37 per cent) and lack of energy (21 per cent), would put them off hiring over 55s talent…
  • …despite over 55s proving to be 200 per cent less likely to take a day off sick

Legislation brought in several years ago to anonymise dates of birth on CVs and job applications makes it harder to specifically target an older demographic and turn these stats on their head. As a result, great talent is being missed when companies are hiring en masse.

Instead, we should start to look at behavioural based criteria and psychometrics to remove the bias around qualifications and tenure, to better facilitate people to switch between industries, and enable people without a career at all – such as mums who gave up their careers to raise children – to get a job in a field they’re passionate about.

Bringing in older workers also presents an opportunity to inspire a less experienced workforce and identify future leadership potential. People who’ve spent many years in business know what makes a loyal, reliable employee and they’ll be able to spot it quickly if given the chance to mentor younger people.

Forced out

Figures also reveal:

  • A quarter of people in employment fear they will be forced to retire before they want to
  • This figure increases to 35 per cent when looking at over 55s talent who are currently unemployed
  • Three in four people will run out of money in retirement
  • Over 55s have overtaken every age group in terms of spending online
  • 89 per cent of over 55s talent would take a pay drop in salary to retrain in a new role or industry
  • 42 per cent of retirees think roles need to be more appealing and suitable to their changed needs after retirement
  • Only a quarter of HR leaders aged 25-30 said they would be willing to retrain or reskill 55–75-year-olds, compared to 44 per cent of HR leaders aged 46-50

In short, this means not enabling older workers to continue working – and many told 55/Redefined they want to continue working until they’re 80 years old – will be hugely damaging to the future economy. If they’re not employed and therefore can’t afford to spend, several industries will collapse.

As such, employers need to be encouraged to open conversations with their older workers and grant them the choice to continue working into their later years. There’s no legal age a person can retire, and taking the statutory route isn’t always what’s most effective for a person’s wellbeing.

Then, we must find more creative ways of marketing jobs to a demographic that – even though still keen to work – don’t necessarily have to. With retirement pots and pension funds, working in older years becomes a choice, not a necessity, so job adverts must make the prospect appealing enough for people over 55 to join a company and help it thrive.

This might mean creating job shares, offering healthcare benefits or providing a training programme to help them reskill. It might also mean providing an education to the candidate themselves on how to develop a CV – given it’ll be years since they last applied for a job – and helping them understand the fast pace of recruitment, and why they shouldn’t go for the very first job that becomes available.

None of this will be an overnight solution to the problem facing over 55s talent set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, or for the people already out of employment who want to re-enter. It will take time to overcome the deep-rooted issues associated with older workers and transform how they’re perceived by a jobs market that inherently champions the young.

Our priority as outsourced recruiters is ensuring that every single candidate – regardless of their individual make up – is given a fair opportunity to access work, should they want to. In the meantime, employers can also do their bit to make older workers feel valued should they apply for jobs – doing so might see them fill some of the vast numbers of vacancies currently available across in-demand sectors, that could just learn a thing or two from an experienced pair of hands.

We’ve helped our clients navigate the challenges of talent acquisition for over 50 years. Our door is always open, get in touch at or find out more about how we can support your ambitions with our EDI consultancy service.