Making your Future Work: Is your age shaping what you love and loving what you do?

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The youngest age a child can work is 13, unless they obtain a performance licence.  Generally, there is no compulsory retirement age (with the exception of age limits set by law or jobs that require certain physical abilities).

I remember my personal frustration as a teenager being underpaid as a strawberry picker because the legal rates were set by age rather than performance. My response was to get my parents to pay me at a Pick Your Own farm by the pound, an early venture into self-employment!  The statutory underpayment of young people continues with those under 16 outside minimum wage legislation and rates staying lower until age 23.

At the other end of the spectrum, recent statistics (September 2021) show competing trends:  the employment rate for those aged 50-64 has fallen so nearly 30% are economically inactive. The future looks bleak for those aged 50 or over as they comprise more than a third of all workers on furlough. Meanwhile 1 in 12 are working in the 70s, up from 1 in 22 ten years ago.

There are two interesting initiatives which are seeking to encourage employment both ends of the age spectrum by engaging employers directly.

The Centre for Ageing Better launched a Guide to ‘Becoming an Age Friendly Employer’ with five simple actions and a compelling business case for employers to engage.  These actions are: ‘Encourage career development at all ages’, ‘Hire age positively’, ‘Be flexible about flexible working’, ’Create an age positive culture’, ‘Ensure everyone has the health support they need’.

Youth Employment UK has launched the ‘Youth Friendly Employer’ initiative with the ‘Good Youth Employment Charter’ for employers to sign with five core principles.  These principles are: ’Developing people’, ’Fair employment’, ‘Creating opportunities’, ’Youth Voice’, ’Recognising talent’.

Both share a commitment to career development and fair employment.  ‘Be flexible…’ maps closely to ‘Creating opportunities’ and ‘Creating an age positive culture’ is strongly aligned to ‘Youth Voice’.

Government policy still treats young people inequitably on wages and fails to require the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make ageism a priority.  Employers are starting to take the initiative.

But too often age is shaping what you can love and whether you can love what you do.

This article was originally written for KCW London.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.