Older workers and electoral politics

19th April, 2010 8:55 pm

By Chris Ball

The older you get, the more likely you are to vote. Add this to the demographic changes in society and you get a new ‘grey factor’ in election calculations.

Four out of ten of the 632 seats (319) are likely to have ‘grey’ majorities in this election, including 94 of the marginal constituencies which will determine the result.

But the older worker factor is a closely related angle. The numbers of older people in work and seeking work is increasing. Roughly speaking they are 50 to state pension age, though many are working beyond state pension age – if they have the choice.

Some are cut off in their prime, deprived of both income and social networks before they are ready to retire. Making the labour market fairer for older and mid life workers The Age and Employment Network is all about.

Older Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants are numerous enough to influence the outcome in some marginal seats. In Crawley, where Labour’s Laura Moffatt has a majority of 37 votes, there are 170 older JSA claimants.

In Birmingham Edgbaston, where Gisella Stewart (Labour) has a majority of 2,379, there are 380 older JSA claimants. If some of these people switch their votes, it is possible the seat could change hands.

The government has officially outlawed age discrimination in employment but the lawful forced retirement of people once they reach 65 tarnishes such achievements. That default retirement age is a sore point for many older workers. All the parties comment on it in their manifestos, but if one looks at the small print, there is a lot of scope for the issue to be fudged.

Changes to state pension age (SPA) are potentially a huge issue. The present plan is to raise SPA to 66 for men and women in a two year period starting in 2024 and then progressively to 68 by 2044. Last year, George Osborne announced he would bring forward the rise of male SPA to 66 to 2016.

This has not yet been debated during the course of the campaign. Anyone below the age of 59 will be affected by this, but where are the questions to the candidates?

The calculated saving from a one year increase in male SPA is £13 billion a year, so one can see where Mr Osborne is coming from. However, it will be a step too far for many individuals and organisations. Those with health conditions or skills issues, in particular, need special consideration. How easy will it be for them to carry on working for another year or two? And the perverse other side of the coin is that employers are lobbying for vestigial rights to fire older workers whom they consider not up to the job once the default retirement age is removed.

One idea for overcoming this problem is for some form of capability testing to be provided in a new law.

All this is in the policy melting pot right now. It will be an affront to democracy if such issues do not find their way into the open at the election hustings.

Comments are closed


  • Featured News Labour’s Syria tensions remain fraught despite free vote

    Labour’s Syria tensions remain fraught despite free vote

    Jeremy Corbyn has warned that “there is no hiding place” for Labour MPs who vote in favour of action against ISIS in Syria. The decision not to whip the vote has not made tensions over the issue in the Labour Party any less fraught, and tougher rhetoric on each side of the argument has seen stances toughen over the last 24 hours. Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn will tomorrow make the opposite argument to Corbyn from the despatch box. Benn, […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: Oldham West and the EU referendum

    Weekly Survey: Oldham West and the EU referendum

    Thursday is polling day in the Oldham West and Royton by-election – the first proper electoral test Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has faced. Labour currently has a majority of over 14,000 in the seat, but UKIP are expected to put up a tough challenge. How confident are you about Labour’s chances? This week Labour launches their official campaign to keep Britain in the EU. 213 Labour MPs have signed up to support it, including Jeremy Corbyn and the entire Shadow […]

    Read more →
  • News More free votes ahead? Labour MPs put pressure on Greenwood over Heathrow

    More free votes ahead? Labour MPs put pressure on Greenwood over Heathrow

    David Cameron is reportedly within days of making a decision on airport expansion, with many expecting him to support a a third runway at Heathrow. This could cause a headache for the Tories, with Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith and several Cabinet ministers all opposed to expanding Heathrow’s capacity. However, it could spell trouble for Labour too: Harriet Harman backed the Heathrow expansion recommended by the Davies Report in July, but the party are now committed to examining the evidence again. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured A free vote was always the best Corbyn could have hoped for

    A free vote was always the best Corbyn could have hoped for

    There’s a great Smiths track called ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’. Actually, I think all Smiths and Morrissey tracks are great, but that’s a column for another website. That phrase sums up the approach taken by Jeremy Corbyn to the Syria vote. Starting an unnecessary fight and then having to climb down. I don’t know if it is Jeremy himself strategising, or persons unidentified in his team, but they are progressively squandering the immense political capital that his big […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Alan Johnson to promise distinct Labour EU campaign

    Alan Johnson to promise distinct Labour EU campaign

    Alan Johnson will today launch the Labour Party’s official campaign to stay in the European Union, promising a distinct campaign that focuses on jobs, workers’ rights and national security. “The first duty of any government is to keep our country safe and I firmly believe that leaving the EU would fail that test,” the former Home Secretary will say at the launch in Birmingham. “From the European Arrest Warrant to cross-border data sharing on terrorists, the speed of our response […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends