Working for everyone

Dec 5, 2017 | REPORTS

This report by ILC-UK and renEWL features research on how working conditions, health and caring responsiblities affect workforce participation.

The Government’s encouragement of extending working lives has been one of the most significant policy developments in recent years. Due to increased longevity and demographic pressures, there has been the recognition that more of the population need to be working until later in their lives to ensure economic sustainability, both for themselves and for government finances. This report presents research from the renEWL research consortium on extending working lives beyond the age of 50, and will provide an evidence base for policy makers. This is vital to ensure that these changes planned by Government are fair, effective, and targeted.

There is growing evidence of the need to extend working lives in the UK. Demographic shifts, including population ageing and increased life expectancy has meant that in a relatively short amount of time, public policy has shifted from encouraging older workers to retire earlier, to encouraging them to work past the traditional retirement age. The culmination of this policy shift has been the increase of the State Pension Age, and the commitment by the government to review it every Parliament.

For some groups of the population however, extending the length of time spent in employment is currently unrealistic. Health problems, shorter life expectancy and commitments such as informal caring mean that many drop out of the labour market before the current retirement age. Therefore, for these groups there is a need to ensure working lives are as full as possible, and to provide necessary support to ensure these groups are not unfairly disadvantaged.

It is the role of policy makers, employers, and individuals to enact these necessary changes. The extending working lives agenda intersects many policy areas, from the economy, to health and social care, to work and pensions. But policy decisions need to be informed by the latest evidence. The evidence included in this report is some of the most contemporary and in-depth research on extending working lives and enabling fuller working lives in the UK. It is indispensable to policy makers with an interest in securing a future labour force that is economically sustainable, productive, and healthy.

About renEWL

renEWL is a research consortium based at University College London, specialising in research on extending working lives beyond 50, including up to and beyond State Pension age. It conducts longitudinal research on workers, with specific research questions asking:

  • Do good working conditions and socio-economic background promote older workers to continue working?
  • Do earlier circumstances and lifestyle patterns impact on later working patterns? This includes health, family, caring responsibilities, and gender differences.

Structure of this report

The research included in this report has been grouped into three thematic chapters:

  • Economy, working conditions and occupational group
  • Health
  • Caring responsibilities and family structure

Each of these chapters include three subsections:

  • Policy context: What are the current developments in public policy most relevant to this research area?
  • Review of published papers: Summaries of the research published by renEWL on this theme, presenting methods, data used and results.
  • Deep dive: How do the various results interlink, and what are the implications of the findings for public policy?

Professor Jenny Head, Professor of Medical and Social Statistics, UCL and Head of the renEWL team said:

“We know from previous research that mental health has an important influence on employment in later life. We found that poor psychological health across the life course, including as far back as childhood, is related to unemployment at age 55.

We also found that working conditions and onset of caring responsibilities have an impact on employment at older ages. We hope our findings will inform strategies to reduce inequalities in employment rates of older workers, including support for both children and adults with mental health problems.”


Report authors: George Holley-Moore, Dean Hochlaf and Amna Riaz