'End forced retirement'

August 05, 2010, 10:15 PM GMT+0

The public approves of ending forced retirement at the age of 65, but also feels that certain jobs are inappropriate for older people and that their continued presence in the workforce could have a negative impact on younger workers, a recent survey for the Sunday Times has found.

A clear majority (74%) support the idea that forced retirement is discriminatory and ageist, with 21% in disagreement. Accordingly, a substantial proportion (75%) believe that if over 65s remain in the workforce it will help the public finances, as they will pay tax on their income and claim less benefit.

The results follow a recent Government announcement that the compulsory retirement age of 65 is to be phased out from April 2011 over a six-month period.

However, while forced retirement is an unpopular option, just over two-thirds (67%) of the public feel that some jobs are not suitable for older people and agreed that employers may need to retain the right to force workers in certain jobs to retire (but not necessarily at the current age of 65).

Notwithstanding this, a small but significant proportion (27%) disagreed with the above statement, with older people more likely to take issue. 31% of those aged over 60 felt that employers should not retain the right to force people to retire compared to 18% of 18-24 year olds.

Despite this split, the public are generally in agreement that it would become harder for young people to find work if over 65s were to remain in the workforce: 62% agreed. Half as many (31%) disagreed.

The perceived view that older workers place pressure on younger people’s jobs is especially interesting in light of the current high level of graduate unemployment. However, that most people think older people should not be forced to retire except in certain industries, suggests a shift, if not yet a wholesale movement, towards the idea that working life need not stop at 65.

Survey details and full results