It's fair to say that the recent record-breaking employment figures bucked the expectations of many people - and in a good way. There are now 31.75 million people in work, unemployment is at a 10-year low and wages continue to outstrip inflation. This is great news and underscores the resilience of our labour market and economy.
What's most encouraging is that the opportunities out there are being spread so widely. There are a near-record 6.2 million youngsters either in full-time study or work and the number of disabled people in work has shot up by over 360,000 in the past two years.
We've made it clear that we intend to create a Britain that works for everybody, not just the privileged few, and that opportunities will be extended to all at every stage of their lives, regardless of who they are or where they come from. This very much includes older workers. I'm particularly pleased to see that are a record 9.8 million people aged over 50 in employment, 1.2 million of who are aged 65 or over.
In the past, our society was all too ready to force people out of the workplace once they reached a certain age in the misguided belief that these hardworking and loyal people had outgrown their place in the economy.
Many people in the public eye enjoy their greatest successes later in life. Just look at the heroics of Nick Skelton, who snatched Gold earlier this month in the horse jumping at the Olympics aged 58. And Dame Judi Dench remains one of the finest actresses this country's ever produced, yet she was 64 before she won her first Oscar.
This was a nettle that badly needed seizing and since 2010 we've been doing our level best to change perceptions and help employers realise that age is no barrier to work. That's why we abolished the default retirement age and introduced older worker champions across our Jobcentre Plus network to spread best practice.
The fact that one in five businesses launched by entrepreneurial jobseekers through the New Enterprise Allowance involved someone over the age of 50 demonstrates that people in this age group are far from ready to be written off. Older people bring with them vital skills and knowledge that have been built up over many years, and research shows that employers believe they are just as productive as younger workers.
They may appeal to a business' older clients and can mentor younger workers while simultaneously learning new ways of doing things.
Recent research by McDonald's found that on average staff are 10% happier if they work with a mixture of age ranges, as opposed to people drawn solely from their own age group.
The same survey also found that 60% of customers believed a diverse range of ages led to better customer service.
There are countless benefits for older people too in terms of keeping active and fit, making new friends and relationships and earning a bit of extra cash. Those who choose to continue working in later life may find themselves in a better financial position in retirement as well, as they may be able to contribute more to their work place pension.
In the years ahead we face a fundamental shift in our age demographic with greater numbers of older people, and the expertise that they bring to the workforce will be vital to maintaining a strong and healthy economy.
So, are you ready for the changes that lie ahead? If not, I would urge you to start thinking now about how your business can make the most of the skills, knowledge and experience that this growing pool of talent has to offer.
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