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The ageing population

We discuss how the standard pattern of our working lives is changing due to the demographics of an ageing population.
© University of Exeter

In the UK the official retirement age of 65 (and the associated budgets for pension provision) were set at a time when average life expectancy was in the low 70s. The retirement age is planned to increase to 67 over the next 10 years, but this has not kept pace with rising life expectancy.

According to the Office for National Statistics, (ONS) a child born today is likely to live to the age of 92, and be “economically active” well into their 80s. (If you are so inclined, you can check out your own life expectancy using the calculator the ONS has helpfully provided!)

Without delving into the full detail, it is clear from the ONS data summarised below that over the next 20 years a reducing number of people of “working” age will be supporting a growing number of “retirees”.

Table showing the age distribution of the UK population, 1976 to 2046 (projected). The chart shows that the percentage of the population aged 15years or under was 24.5% in 1976 and is projected to be 17.7% in 2046. The percentage of the population aged 16-64 years was 61.2% in 1976 and is projected to be 57.7% in 2046. The percentage of the population aged 65years or over was 14.2% in 1976 and is projected to be 24.7% in 2046. The population in total is projected to increase from 56,212,121 in 1976 to 76,342,235 in 2046

We will also need to be flexible in terms of when and how we work and not rely on the continued existence of 20th century working patterns and expectations…

For example, a very generalised “traditional” working pattern in the industrialised west might consist of an extended period of full time study (at a low cost until recently) followed by work (with a possible break for childcare) followed by retirement as early as 55 in some cases.

What are the implications of these demographic changes for the basic structures of working life that are so deeply embedded in our society?

© University of Exeter
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