UK Government

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: New Thinking for a Changing Population

Press Release   •   Feb 03, 2010 12:03 GMT

Older people bring skills and experience to the workplace that can be an asset to business and their spending power can boost the wider economy.

This was at the heart of Business Minister Pat McFadden’s message to industry and charities today, as he brought together experts from both sectors to discuss the economic challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.

He said:

“Older people are increasingly the backbone of our economy. We should be recognising this and looking for ways to meet their needs, and to make the most of what older workers can offer.

“As we continue to invest in growth, we need to make the most of all our talent: and that means harnessing the skills of the older generation as well as the young. This will put us in the strongest possible position going forward.”

By 2050 over a third of Europe’s population is expected to be over sixty years old. This means that there will be different pressures on services than there are today, but it also means a population with different needs and skills.

If businesses can adapt to the needs of this older group, then the rewards could be significant.

George Magnus, Senior Economic Adviser at UBS, said:

"The UK needs to re-boot its ideas about how it adapts to ageing. No one is suggesting people should be compelled to work in their seventies, but many do want to do just that and this could have many advantages - not least in their own financial and psychological well-being.

"We all need to think more flexibly, with a new approach to jobs, occupations and compensation structures for people over fifty that takes account of changing needs and priorities. Whist Government is inevitably part of this, there should be a wide ranging and inclusive debate about how businesses and the public can play their part as well."

A key theme of the conference was the fact that a considerable proportion of older people want to carry on working and, far from seeing themselves as a vulnerable group, believe they have much to offer the modern workplace.

People from these groups are often also in a better position to advise on business ventures, as those over fifty are more likely to be self employed than younger people.

Equally this is the most significant group for entrepreneurs, with many registering and patenting inventions into their sixties and beyond.

However the conference also looked at the considerable consumer power of the over fifties, as over forty per cent of annual consumer spending is done by this group.

This leaves open an obvious market targeted at the needs and interests of older people in sectors as varied as healthcare, financial services and leisure. By anticipating demand businesses will be preparing themselves for the future and adapting to a changing population as the UK moves out of recession and continues to grow.

Notes to editors

1. The BIS seminar “Is business ready for an ageing nation – economic opportunities for an ageing population” will be held on Wednesday 3rd February 2010 at the Deloitte Academy in London. A cross-section of experts and senior managers from business sectors (IT and telecom, retail, leisure, insurance, financial services, healthcare and social care), academia, the third sector and public sector will discuss the economic challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population. The overall objective of the seminar will be for attendees to come up with recommendations for future action by government and business in this area and to start developing a coherent agenda for future work.

2. An ageing population is one of key drivers of economic change and this work is a key deliverable from New Industry, New Jobs (April 2009) an active industrial strategy for Britain. The New Industry, New Jobs strategy sets out how we will equip Britain to succeed in what will be a radically transformed global economy over the next decade.

3. The outputs of this work will form part of the ongoing growth agenda. Going for Growth (7 January 2010), confirms that the drive for sustainable economic growth will be at the heart of the Government’s agenda going forward. It looks at the challenge of achieving growth not from the perspective of individual departments or policies, but as a set of basic capabilities in the British economy (e.g. enterprise, knowledge and industrial strengths). It reports on what the Government has already delivered on the growth agenda since the publication of New Industry, New Jobs. It reinforces and develops the strategy set out in NINJ and sets out the new steps we are taking to deliver sustainable and long-term economic growth.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.

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