New data analysis from the Centre for Ageing Better has revealed a significant surge in the number of workers aged 65 and above in the UK labour market since the turn of the century.

The findings, based on official Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Market statistics, show that the workforce in this age group has increased by almost one million, double the proportion recorded in 2000.

As of the latest analysis, more than one in nine workers (11.5%) in the UK are continuing to work past their 65th birthday, marking a substantial increase from the one in 20 (5.2%) recorded in 2000.

The study highlights a growing trend of individuals remaining in full-time employment up to and beyond the state pension age, with a surprising proportion engaged in zero-hours contracts, second only to the 16-24 age group.

Of the 5.4 million additional workers in employment since 2000, nearly one million (976,000) are aged 65 and over, making it the second-largest age group increase after those aged 50-64.

State pension plays a role

In 2000, there were 457,000 workers aged 65 and above, and the current figures show a significant rise to 1.43 million workers in the same age group. The increase includes 566,000 additional workers attributed to the growth in the population aged 65 and over over the past 23 years. Factors influencing this trend include changes in the state pension age and a significant increase in female employment rates.

Dr. Karen Hancock, Research and Policy Officer at the Centre for Ageing Better, emphasised the economic importance of older workers, stating, “These figures show once again the ever-growing importance of older workers to the economy in filling labor and skills shortages.”

The analysis further reveals that older workers are more likely to be self-employed than their younger counterparts. In 2022, workers aged 60 and above accounted for one in six (17.4%) of all self-employed workers in the country, up from one in nine (11.2%) in 2011.

Despite the majority of those working beyond 65 doing so part-time, the proportion of employed individuals in this age group working full-time has increased from one in four (25%) in 2000 to more than one in three (34%) in 2023.

What about quality of life?

Luke Price, Senior Research and Policy Manager for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, expressed concern about the quality of employment for this age group, saying, “Working past state pension age is becoming increasingly common, but it should be a choice.”

The study also highlighted that almost 80,000 workers aged 65 and above were employed on zero-hours contracts in Jan-Apr 2023, making up more than one in 20 (5.5%) of all those in employment in this age group, with only the 16-24 age group having a higher proportion working on zero-hours contracts (11.6%).

Price added, “There will be some working past state pension age out of financial necessity as they find their private pensions to be inadequate.”

The findings underscore the need for a deeper understanding of the quality of employment for older workers and address potential barriers, such as age discrimination, to ensure that individuals can make informed choices about their post-retirement employment.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.