The growing impact the over-50s are having on the economy

Research from Hitachi Capital UK and CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research) has found that the number of over-50s in work is rapidly increasing. Robert Gordon, left, CEO of Hitachi Capital UK, looks at how businesses can respond to this shift in workforce dynamics to retain key skills and improve productivity

Over 50s are becoming increasingly important drivers of the UK’s economic growth. Those in this age group are not only staying in the workforce for longer, but are also setting up and running their own businesses at a faster rate than any other age group. In fact, our research has found that over 50s will make up the majority of the UK’s self-employed workforce within the next seven years. This is a startling statistic considering the way entrepreneurship is often depicted today – young and tech-focused.

Improved healthcare has resulted in us not only living longer, but enjoying a better quality of life. The impact of this is that our contribution to the economy, be it as a consumer, employer or employee, is happening over a prolonged period.

But what does this mean for business?

Our research revealed that, for the first time ever, businesses run by over 50s are now employing more people than those run by younger individuals. This demonstrates that as business owners, this group is key in driving employment opportunities and fuelling growth across not only their own sectors, but the economy as a whole.

As employees, having over 50s staying in work for longer means that key skills, amassed over an entire career, are retained, benefitting the whole workforce. Projections from CEBR show that the number of employed 50 to 64 year-olds will surpass nine million before the end of 2018, growing to ten million by 2021 – a trend that businesses will need to prepare for and positively embrace to leverage the opportunities it presents.

With the UK economy currently enduring an ongoing productivity crisis[1], our belief is that supporting an older workforce can help to drive prosperity for the country as a whole. UK businesses continue to defy expectations, with many continuing to thrive despite difficult trading conditions and pervasive uncertainty. It is clear that one of the main factors driving such strong resilience and growth is the people behind these businesses.

Some businesses are already embracing the growing role of over 50s, and I would encourage more companies to follow this trend as the economic contribution of this age group continues to grow substantially in the coming years.

Having a diverse workforce that spans various age groups brings many benefits to businesses of all sizes. A broad range of opinions means employees approach tasks and problems from various standpoints – challenging each other and often coming up with better solutions as a result.  It also encourages employees to discuss and learn from others with different experiences and expertise.

The more diverse an employee base, the greater the likelihood businesses will have larger skillsets. Businesses that are willing to commit to seek out the best talent regardless of age, including the over 50s, will acquire vastly more positives than negatives.

There is no such thing as over the hill; this age group is standing on top of the hill, guiding the way.

Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC is a leading financial services company with over 30 years’ experience providing finance solutions to enable consumers, SMEs, fleet owners, motor dealers and retailers to grow.