Grey army is growing stronger

He may be in his 70s but Chris Slade’s working days are longer than when he was three decades younger.

The Cumnor-based landscape gardener is one of a growing army of people choosing to keep working well beyond retirement age.

According to latest Office for National Statistics labour survey figures, the number of over-65s in employment has jumped by 11.5 per cent in the past year to reach one million.

The trend is fuelled by inflation which has sent the cost of food, heating and petrol soaring, poorer pensions than hoped and longer life expectancy.

But it has also sparked worries that as more people work past retirement age, it will mean fewer jobs for the unemployed, especially youngsters.

According to the ONS, there are just under 6,500 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance in Oxfordshire, 1,400 of which are aged 18 to 24.

Despite this, a recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found there was “no evidence of long-term crowding-out of younger individuals from the labour market by older workers”.

Mr Slade, 71, who runs Slade Estate Services with 65-year-old sister Gaye, employs seven people.

He said: “I love my work and don’t ever want to retire.

“To do this job you have to be pretty fit because we go up and down ladders and cut hedges. I am not sure most people over 65 would necessarily want to do this. But I don’t play golf or have a hobby, so this is what I do instead. I love going into work in the mornings.”

As part of its drive to encourage people to work until they are older, the Government recently scrapped the default retirement age (DRA), meaning employers can no longer force employees to retire at 65.

It also introduced a number of financial incentives to work beyond state pension age, which include the lure of a higher pension payment or lump sum for those who delay their state pension claim and is targeting employers through support for older workers, flexible working and legislation to protect from age discrimination.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, retiring just two years after state pension age and continuing to save during that time can boost private pension income by 20 per cent.

On the flipside, retiring two years earlier and drawing down a pension can reduce it by 18 per cent.

And older workers don’t just help themselves, they boost the UK’s economy as a whole, according to the DWP.

It says a one-year extension to everyone’s working lives could grow real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by about one per cent after six years.

Sue Holden is another pensioner determined to carry on working into old age. She could have retired five years ago at 60 but chose to stay on as secretary of Barton Community Association.

She said: “A lot of other people keep working because they can’t afford to retire and I don’t see that situation changing in the near future.

“I am fortunate in that I don’t have to work but I don’t want to be sitting at home doing nothing except watching TV. It keeps my brain active and allows me to interact with other people.

“I don’t see that the older people working are taking jobs away from the young people at all because it is two totally different ends of the employment spectrum.

“There are a lot of jobs done by older people that young people would not have the experience for.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Jo Hall, 22, has been hunting for a job in the media industry since she graduated from Cambridge University with a 2:1 degree in English and drama with education last year.

Ms Hall, who lives with her parents in Cumnor, has spent almost three months on unpaid work experience at a London public relations firm, the BBC in Salford, The Guardian newspaper and Penguin Books.

She said: “The public relations company and Penguin paid my expenses but apart from that I have completely funded myself.

“I was happy to work unpaid because there was a chance of a job at the end and I have had a couple of interviews as a result.

“I don’t blame people for working past retirement. I can imagine they want to earn money as well, so I don’t feel like anyone is taking jobs from me.”

Saga director general Dr Ros Altmann added: “Many older people are increasingly choosing to stay at work, often part-time so that they ease more gently into retirement and have a better work-life balance.

“There are, of course, many more people now aged over 65 but also those coming up to retirement may be finding their private or state pensions are not as good as they had hoped — meaning they have to stay at work if they want a reasonable income.

“By encouraging the opportunities of working longer, especially part time, we can ensure older people contribute to economic growth with a greater income for themselves while making retirement more fulfilling.”

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