Much has been written about ageing populations in developed countries and their growing influence on business and society. To some, this demographic represents a burden – one that must be shouldered by a young and superior digital-native workforce, but is this really the case? Below Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital UK, explains.
At Hitachi Capital UK, we suspected that older generations had much to contribute to the economy. So, we conducted our own research, in partnership with CEBR, to gain some fresh insight into the role of over 50-year-olds in business. The results far exceeded our expectations, not only rubbishing claims that over 50s are a drain on the economy, but proving that this age group is becoming a critical driver of the UK’s economic growth.
Older workers are no mere passengers, looking to see out their final working years quietly. On the contrary, they are an increasingly important demographic of entrepreneurs and business owners. The number of over 50s who are business owners or otherwise self-employed increased from 7.8% in 2011 to 9.0% in 2016 and this may well be just the tip of the iceberg. CEBR’s projections show that if the over 50s maintain this growth in influence, they will represent the majority of the self-employed workforce by 2024.
This makes perfect sense. In the course of their professional careers, the over 50s have often accumulated valuable experience and established professional networks which are priceless for the successful running of a business or in senior management roles. Among these self-employed individuals are founders who want to realise a business idea, as well as those who have worked their way up the career ladder in an existing company to the very top.
Those who decide to start a business later in life often benefit from greater financial independence, having already put their children through school or perhaps university. Without these or other responsibilities that come earlier in careers, they are free to take on risks that they may not have previously taken. Our data suggests that today’s older workers often decide to stick with their industry, rather than a wholesale career change, but opt to work more autonomously.
One of the other big takeaways from the research was the discovery that this age group is also outstripping the young on job creation, with businesses run by over 50s now employing almost 2 million more people than those run by their younger counterparts.
The implications of these findings extend far beyond discussions around what a 21st century workplace should look like. Rather, our belief is that supporting an older workforce can help to drive prosperity for the country as a whole. Businesses in the UK 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.
Today’s modern businesses rightly strive for a diverse workforce in every possible sense. The more diverse an employee base, the greater the likelihood businesses will have larger skillsets and a range of opinions and approaches. 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.
Ultimately, our research proves that over 50s are a source of growth and prosperity and it is essential that we find more ways to support their economic ambitions.
Phil Dean – Founder and Managing Director of creative agency, Certain: ‘We’re still young and shiny…even if I’m not so young and shiny anymore’.
Phil Dean has worked in the graphic design industry for more than 20 years and has helped to build several successful agency businesses.
When, at 50 he had the opportunity to move from Leeds to London and start his own business, it was a challenge he was ready to embrace. Despite working in a sector that is often considered to be the domain of young, energetic individuals, his years of experience and knowledge of the sector gave him the confidence to build a business he knew could be successful.
His seniority has proven to be a considerable asset for the company, helping to reassure and draw in clients and enabling him to set up the business quickly, a factor that, given the competitiveness of the London market, Phil felt was important to his business’ success.
Commenting on this Phil said: “We’re still a young and shiny business, even if I’m not so young and shiny anymore! I think 50 is the new 30 and the idea of retiring is just not one that appeals to me. If we’re going to be working for longer I want to be taking the experience I have and the knowledge I’ve developed and use that to do something I love, which I can happily say I am doing.”
Certain is now 3 years old and employs 10 people.