Billions boost to UK bottom line if more was done to help people keep working for longer

Hayley Kirton
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The UK could increase its GDP by billions if it could keep as many people in their 50s in work as some other major economies have managed to, a report out today has found.

The research by PwC discovered the UK GDP would be raised by roughly 5.8 per cent – or around £105bn – if there were as many people in work over 55 in the UK as there were in Sweden, the top performing EU country for making sure older people can keep working if they want to.

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If the UK was to perform on a par with Sweden, it would also result in a 15 percentage point increase in the full-time equivalent employment rate for workers aged between 55 and 64 and a four percentage point increase for those aged over 65.

The figures form part of PwC's wider Golden Age Index, which ranks the performance of the labour market for workers aged over 55. In its newest table, which relates to 2014, the UK ranks 18th out of 34 OECD countries, while Iceland steals the top spot.

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"In comparison to other EU countries the UK performs relatively well, ranking sixth out of 21 EU countries in our index in 2014," explained John Hawksworth, PwC's chief economist. "This reflects stronger employment growth in the UK than most other EU countries in recent years, including for older workers.

"But we do less well when compared to the other high income countries outside Europe, including New Zealand, the US, Japan and Australia.

"Between 2015 and 2030, the population of those aged 55 and above in high-income countries is projected to grow by more than a quarter to around 500 million. Rapid population ageing is putting significant pressure on healthcare and pension systems.

"The UK and many other countries could offset these higher costs by tapping into their older workforce and so increasing both GDP and tax revenues. We have made some progress on this front, but there is a lot more to do to match the best performers like Iceland, New Zealand and Sweden."

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A report released in March by think tank the Resolution Foundation criticised government's approach to employment of over 50s for being old-fashioned, arguing that, rather than focusing on how to help unemployed people in that age bracket back into the workforce, it would be better to concentrate on preventing people from leaving the workforce prematurely in the first place.

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