Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Demographics


As the UK population ages, it is also becoming increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. Both these demographic shifts impact the world of work.

With workplaces reflecting wider society, they are not only becoming more diverse by encompassing individuals of different age-groups, gender, and race and ethnicity, but also in terms of different education and socio-economic backgrounds, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientation and disability. Employers increasingly recognise the importance of a diverse workforce as a means of attracting the best people, unleashing individual potential and mirroring the communities in which they operate.

People are living longer, healthy lives (although increases in life expectancy have slowed and were exceptionally reversed during the pandemic, at least in the UK). With declining fertility rates, not enough children are being born to compensate, while net immigration to the UK is also reducing. An ageing population means either that people should retire later or it necessitates a fundamental rethink of how both retirement and the medical and caring needs of the elderly are funded. (The UK government recently announced a new Health and Social Care Levy to begin to help meet these costs.) Will people look to their employers to fund their retirement in place of the state? Might employees need to respond to increased life expectancy by postponing retirement? At a national level, should countries with an ageing population seek to encourage a higher birth-rate, with long-term consequences for global resources? Or should they look to greater migration, or merely adapt to an ageing and declining population?

The pandemic has seen numbers in full-time education in the UK increase – a trend which (if it continues) may contribute to pressure on recruitment for some jobs as people delay starting their careers. This will only accelerate the ageing profile of the workforce. Despite the UK having age discrimination laws for over 15 years, prejudices and stereotypes about the potential contribution of those over 70 endure and will need re-evaluating. Employers must ensure they do not ignore the potential of older workers and candidates in their search for the suitable candidates, as skills shortages become more common.