Office for National Statistics
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Working past state pension age nearly doubles in past 20 years

The number of older workers – those working beyond state pension age – has nearly doubled from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4 million in 2011, a new report from ONS highlighted yesterday. Over that time, the numbers were relatively stable until 2000 but rose quickly thereafter to a peak of 1.45 million in 2010. The proportion of the older population who are in employment also rose, albeit not as fast as the number of older workers: this proportion went from 7.6 per cent in 1993 to 12.0 per cent in 2011.

A high proportion of these older workers were self-employed: in the last quarter of 2011, 32 per cent of workers aged above state pension age were self-employed, compared with just 13 per cent of those below that age. Also, workers over state pension age were twice as likely to be working part-time (66 per cent) than full-time (34 per cent). For those under state pension age, 75 per cent worked full-time and the remaining 25 per cent worked part-time. This shows that those remaining in the labour market over state pension age work fewer hours, possibly helped by the financial support of their state pension and other pension arrangements allowing them to fit their work around other engagements.

Of the 1.4 million older workers above state pension age in the UK in the final quarter of 2011, 39 per cent were men and 61 per cent were women. However, around two-thirds of these men worked in jobs classed as higher skilled, but almost two-thirds of these women worked in lower skilled jobs. The higher skilled roles that men carried out included those such as property managers, marketing and sales directors, production managers and chief executives of organisations. Of all the jobs carried out by men, the two most common were farmers and taxi drivers. Looking at women, the most common job was cleaners, followed by administration assistants, care workers and retail assistants.

Looking at the period October 2010-September 2011, the South East, South West and East of England had the highest employment rates for workers below state pension age. The pattern was similar for older workers, but with one exception – London. For the younger population, London only ranked eighth in terms of the employment rate, but for older people it had the joint highest percentage in employment of any part of the country, behind the South East, at 14.1 per cent. This may reflect the higher cost of living in London, which might provide an incentive for older workers to work on rather than retire. Additionally, there tends to be a migratory drift out of London for the older population post retirement such that a higher proportion of those remaining are more likely to be economically active.

At a sub-regional level, the highest employment rate for those above state pension age was in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, at 17.2 per cent, and the lowest rate was in Tees Valley and Durham, at 7.7 per cent.

A podcast giving more background on this analysis in available on the ONS Youtube channel at

Background notes

  1. There is a report on the ONS website at
  2. For most of the period looked at, state pension age was 65 for men and 60 for women. However, from April 2010 state pension age for women began to rise gradually eventually to equalise with that of men, so that from the date some women of 60 or 61 will be excluded from the older workers group.
  3. The main analysis uses the quarterly Labour Force Survey datasets to generate annual averages for the time series and the final quarter of 2011 for up-to-date analysis. The regional analysis uses the October 2010 to September 2011 Annual Population Survey dataset.
  4. Follow us on and on the ONS Youtube channel at
  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.
  6. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2012.
  7. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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