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Over 50s: a boost to UK economy, not a burden

11th May 2017 – The over-50s are creating more jobs and contributing to the growth of the UK’s economy at a faster rate than any other age group, according to a report by Hitachi Capital UK and CEBR (Centre for Economic and Business Research).

Contrary to popular belief, the over-50’s are playing an increasingly important role in our economic growth. Rather than being a burden on society, this age group is outstripping younger counterparts on a number of fronts - from spending, job creation and contribution to GDP - which is having a significant impact on our economic prosperity.

The research, carried out in partnership with CEBR, revealed that the older generation had spent more than the under-50s for the first time in the year ending April 2016, with a total £376 billion of discretionary spending. Analysis of the economic impact of this ‘silver pound’ showed that it translated to a boost to UK GDP of £119 billion (over 6% of total UK GDP in 2016), supporting an estimated 1.9 million jobs.

Crucially, the over-50s’ contribution was found to be growing at a much faster rate than that of the younger age bracket. While spending by the under-50s has grown just 1.4% per year since 2003, spending by the over-50s over the same period has grown more than three times as fast at 4.6% per year.

Driven by increasing life expectancy, the number of over-50s living in the UK has increased substantially over the past 15 years to 23.6 million in 2015, a figure that is set to keep rising. The report showed that the economic contribution of this group is expected to grow by 57% over the next ten years.

This age group are also outstripping the young on job creation. Labour Force Survey data shows that over-50s currently make up 45% of the UK self-employed workforce, and that the employers among them accounted for nearly 10 million jobs in 2016 – almost 2 million more than the under-50s. The study also found that as with spending, employment by the over-50s had grown significantly faster – another trend that’s set to continue.

Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital UK, comments:

“Our research challenges negative preconceptions about the over-50s – both in our industry and in society in general. Not only have we shown that this group is now the dominant force in the UK economy, but also that their contribution across jobs, spending and wealth creation is growing at a considerably faster rate. We are now seeing the over 50’s setting up and running their own businesses at a faster rate than any other age group, directly employing nearly 10million people, 2million more than the under 50’s.

“It’s time we stopped being negative about the older generation and instead of writing them off, we need to become more effective at realising the economic ambitions of this growing section of the population, instead of stifling them.”

Over 50s economic contribution

  • Research shows over 50s outspent younger counterparts for first time in 2016

  • £119 billion contributed to UK economy

  • Over 50s spending growing at more than three times the rate of under 50s

  • 45% of all self-employed are now over the age of 50