And for many reasons other than financial hardshipby Norma Cohen / April 5, 2017 / Leave a comment
Recent news that the ranks of older women in the workforce are swelling may come as a surprise. But as pensions provider Hargreaves Lansdown points out, official data shows out that the percentage of working women over the age of 70 has doubled within the past four years.
Given the outcry over moves to raise the state pension age (SPA) for women, these figures might be interpreted as a response to financial hardship. However, experts on labour and retirement dismiss this reading. “It’s fantastic news,” said Baroness Ros Altmann, an independent expert and former pensions minister. “It means women have better health, better wealth and will be contributing to Britain’s economic growth.”
Indeed, rising longevity is forcing governments in developed economies to reshape their pension systems, in part by raising the age at which workers can make a claim on the state. In Britain, men and women’s SPAs are to rise to 66 by 2020 and then 67 by 2028, and the so-called default retirement age, which allowed employers to make staff redundant at 65, has been scrapped.
Hargreaves Lansdown found that the percentage of women working past 70 had roughly doubled, from 5.6 per cent in 2012 to 11.7 per cent in 2016. However, the firm did use two different data sets to reach its conclusion, one measuring the percentage of women withdrawing from the workforce at specific ages and the other measuring the percentage of women of specific ages participating in the workforce.
Nevertheless, even if one quibbles with the absolute levels, the overall trend is clear. Structural changes in Britain’s economy—the decline of strength-based manufacturing jobs in favour of skills-based service industry jobs—along with the rise in the percentage of unmarried women and declining fertility, are frequently listed as factors that keep women at work. Even before rising SPAs took effect, more older women were at work. Data up until 2012 show that among women aged 50 to SPA, 71 per cent were at work, up from 59.2 per cent in 1992. Beyond SPA in 2012, some 12 per cent were at work, up from just 8 per cent in 1992.
One factor boosting women’s employment may be the number of university graduates, which has been growing sharply, with women outnumbering men. As of the end of 2015, roughly a quarter of…