King’s researchers examining the reasons why retirees return to employment – or ‘unretire’ – have suggested that the older generation should not be forgotten by policies aiming to keep older people in work.
The ‘Wellbeing, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse’ (WHERL) consortium, which is led by Professor Karen Glaser from the Institute of Gerontology, seeks to understand crucial questions for ageing societies across the globe, examining how inequalities across the lifecourse relate to paid work in later life.
A new research paper by the group has shown that around one in four retirees in the UK return to work or ‘unretire’, mostly within five years of retiring.
This most recent paper found that while unretirement is common, men are more likely to unretire than women, as are people in good health, those who are better educated and those still paying off a mortgage. People who report having financial problems before retiring are not more likely to unretire than those without, nor are those with lower incomes. After ten years, a retiree’s chances of returning to paid work are low.
Karen Glaser, Professor of Gerontology, said: ‘This is the first time we’ve examined unretirement in a general population sample from the UK and, as such, it contributes to a growing body of research examining the nature of labour force participation in later life.
‘The fact that older people with more human capital are more likely to unretire suggests that it may be difficult for those in poorer financial circumstances to find paid work. This may lead to future disparities in later life income.
The research highlights that recently retired people, aged both above and below the state pension age, represent a pool of potential labour, if the right opportunity presents itself.'
The team of researchers used data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-2008) and Understanding Society (2010-2015) to examine levels of retirement reversal, or unretirement. Unretirement was defined as reporting being retired and subsequently recommencing paid employment, or beginning full-time work following a partial retirement.
Lead author of the study Dr Loretta Platts, also a member of the WHERL consortium and Institute of Gerontology at King’s said: ‘This research highlights how common it is for people to return to paid work after retiring.
‘Access to paid work in later life may enable retirees to supplement their pensions, stay mentally and physically active, and maintain contact with others.
‘Given future labour shortages, the skills and experience provided by older workers are a crucial resource for business. Our research highlights how retirees are often ready to be reengaged in the workforce and that government and employers should not forget about them.’