The world of work seemed to simple and predictable for our grandparents’ generation.
They worked, generally for the same employer, for most of their lives, doing the same thing for which they had been trained in their twenties.
And when they reached the age of 60 or 65, they were ushered-out the door with a carriage clock to record time they no longer had to watch, or a Goblin Teasmade to automate the only process which they would spend the rest of their lives doing manually.
How different to the challenges facing our children, who go immediately into debt the moment they leave school, to pay for university courses which are already irrelevant by the time they graduate.
They will spend their working lives in a series of insecure jobs performing tasks which are already superfluous by the time they have completed them because a younger person has already developed an app to replace them.
It’s little wonder that the only growth industry left, appears to be in the development and manufacture of anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety drugs.
The only people more anxious than those about to embark on the world of work are those coming to the end of the employment journey who feel battered, bewildered, and bemused by the whirlwind of rapid change happening around them.
That certainty of employment, enjoyed by Baby Boomers, has now disappeared along with the large industrial and manufacturing employers that, often sustained entire communities.
People in their fifties and early sixties who are made redundant are faced with being retrained for a job that’s likely to have a shorter lifespan than the loaf in their breadbin at home.
Because our pensions are worth a fraction of the value we were told they would be when we started paying into them – if they haven’t already been used by Philip Green to buy a yacht – we don’t know when, or if, we will ever retire.
The changing nature of working practices, and society in general, is reflected in the publication of a new report by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
It surveyed more than 12,000 people over the age of 50 and found that a large proportion (78%) want employers to introduce more flexible working hours to allow them to continue working beyond retirement.
Introducing more part-time roles (73%) and offering training to help with new technology and skills (63%), were the most popular ways that employers could be more accommodating for older workers.
It used to be argued that working beyond retirement age was selfish because you were denying jobs to younger generations.
In the future, those not working beyond retirement age may be accused of selfishness, expecting younger generations to foot the bill for their inactivity.
Yet the government report suggests there’s less resistance among people to the idea of working into their seventies and even eighties than we might suppose. If anything, older people feel discriminated against at the thought of ageing themselves out of the jobs market.
Half of over 50s believe their age might hold them back when applying for a job and one in seven said they’d been turned down for work due to their age, according to research by the Centre for Ageing Better (CfAB).
Almost one in five said they’d hidden or considered hiding their age when applying for a job since turning 50 and a third felt they’d been offered fewer opportunities for training and promotion.
There’s a huge economic incentive to encouraging people to work longer. Halving the employment gap among people aged over 50 could generate an additional £20billion-a-year, according to the CfAB which wants employers to be more inclusive of older workers
Creating more flexible working practices is a first positive step and the government is already looking at introducing a duty on employers to consider whether a job can be carried out flexibly when advertising a role.
The Flexible Working Taskforce was launched earlier this year to promote wider understanding of the benefits of flexible working practices; develop action plans; and make recommendations that will feed into the evaluation of the Right to Request Flexible Working Regulations in 2019.
The ability to work from home and to work out of office hours would be a great benefit to older people, particularly if they have other family or caring responsibilities. And not having to be up for a 9am start is another reason why they will no longer need that Teasmade.