There are 4.9million women with jobs over the age of 50

There are more women in work than when records began 50 years ago, with 4.9million holding down a job over the age of 50 due to rise in pension age and financial pressures

  • The figures show a rise of 38% since 2009 and are double those from 1994 
  • A rise in the state pension age and growing financial pressures are to blame 
  • Fewer than 1.8million women now look after a family or household full-time 

A record number of women over 50 are in work, figures revealed yesterday.

There are 4.9 million 50-plus women holding down a job, a rise of 38 per cent since 2009 – and double the figure in 1994. 

Experts said a rise in the state pension age, growing financial pressures and changing lifestyles were all factors.

Meanwhile, the number of women staying at home has fallen to a record low. Fewer than 1.8 million look after a family or household full-time, compared to 2.1 million a decade ago – and almost 3 million when records began in 1993.

Overall, the Office for National Statistics figures showed the number of women in work has risen to a record 15.4 million. 

A key factor behind the surge in the number of older working women has been the rise in the state pension age, which has been increasing from 60 to 65 – making it harder for many to give up employment.

Just 620,000 women aged under 64 have retired, down 44 per cent since 2009. Lucrative final-salary pensions are less common, meaning many older people have to hold down at least a part-time role to supplement their income in retirement.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistic (ONS) reveal that more women than ever are in employment over the age of 50

The ageing population also makes it harder to retire early because rising life expectancy forces early retirees to make their nest eggs stretch for more years than in the past. 

Former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann said: ‘Older people are keeping the economy going. If all these people had been retired, then growth would not be where it is now’

Many women are also thought to be choosing to work for longer simply because they do not want to stop.

Former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann said: ‘Older people are keeping the economy going. If all these people had been retired, then growth would not be where it is now and employment would therefore be lower for everyone else too.

‘Part of this is good news because people are staying healthy for longer and able to carry on working – but I don’t think you can ignore the impact of the increase in the state pension age for women, and the fact many people may not have much in the way of pension savings.’

The Institute for Fiscal Studies – which has previously described the shift towards more women having jobs as a huge social change – yesterday said working mothers were ‘now the norm’.

Deputy director Rob Joyce said about three-quarters of mothers were in work, up from half in 1975.

He added: ‘Paid work has been on the rise among mothers for decades, and is now the norm. 

‘Those with the youngest children remain least likely to be in paid employment, but it is during that early childhood period where the increase in employment over time has been greatest.’ 

But Claire Paye, of campaign group Mothers at Home Matter, said the change reflected ‘mothers’ lack of choice’, suggesting financial pressures were forcing them back into the workplace.

‘Fewer and fewer women are able to care for their children full-time, and being a full-time mother is less valued by society,’ she added.

The figures on the numbers of women in work were part of another set of remarkable figures on the jobs market.

About 76 per cent of the adult population were working in the three months to February, with a record 32.7 million people in a job. Meanwhile, wages rose at their fastest pace for ten years.

Highest employment rate of all time 

  •  4.9m women over 50 have a job – up 38 per cent in a decade
  • 76.1% Employment rate, the joint highest ever
  • 32.7m Are in work, an all-time high
  • 3.9% The unemployment rate, lowest since 1975
  • 3.5% Growth in average pay, the joint highest increase for a decade
  • £27,508 The average worker’s pay

The unemployment rate stood at 3.9 per cent, according to the ONS, its lowest level since 1975. This contrasts with an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent in the eurozone.

Sarah Coles, of savings firm Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘The good news on jobs keeps coming, with employment at its joint-highest since records began. 

‘The unemployment rate is around half of what it was when the economy was struggling to stay above water in the wake of the financial crisis.’

Employment minister Alok Sharma said: ‘The UK jobs market continues to go from strength to strength, proving the underlying resilience of the British economy.

‘With more people in work than ever before, it is welcome news that wages are continuing to rise at their fastest rate in a decade.’

But the figures also show that the jobs surge is being powered by older people, sparking fears that some workers feel forced to stay on after the state pension age because they don’t have enough money to retire.

A record 10.4 million over-50s have a job, 2.4 million more than in the three months to February 2009.

Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions secretary, said: ‘The rise in older workers sets out the shape of things to come.

‘Attitudes to older workers are changing.

‘There was a time when it was assumed that people would be pensioned off and were past it, but employers can’t afford to think like that any more.’

The number of people in full-time employment rose by 473,000 in a year, and the 3.5 per cent rise in wages the joint-best for a decade. The average worker is now paid £27,508. 

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