In a recent article, the Daily Mail made a series of statistical claims relating to earnings of the over 60s. Do their claims stack up?
The article makes a series of claims based on Prudential research and which cover the time period 2011-2013. The claims are that:
- Annual income for over 60s in work rose by 6.1% to £17,250
- The silver workforce has grown substantially in the past two years as there are 100,000 more over 60s in employment
- Women over 60 have seen average earnings increasing by 11.4% compared with 4.2% for men
The 2013 data is available here and the 2011 data is available here. No indication is given as to why this two year time period was chosen. We’ve obtained data for all years from 2004 onwards and links are available at the bottom of this article (no data is available for 2003 and earlier; there was no 60+ category and instead only 50+ was used)
CLAIM 1: There are 100,000 more over 60s in employment and this is a “substantial” increase that shows “employers are putting their faith in experience”
According to the data, this is correct. The data says that there were 25,000 more over 60s in employment over 2012, and a further 75,000 in 2013.
But looking back at the figures, a 100,000 change over two years is pretty unremarkable. It actually happens fairly regularly.
In the two years to 2006, there were nearly 200,000 extra workers aged over 60. There were an extra 245,000 in the two years to 2007, and an extra 235,000 in the two years to 2008. Even since the recession, 100,000 more over 60s in employment isn’t the highest two yearly figure.
As you can see from the table, the over 60 workforce increased by 155,000 in the two years to 2011. So the claim that the silver workforce has grown “substantially” is perhaps overselling it. It grew by an expected amount over an arbitrary two year period.
But the broader suggestion that employers are “putting their faith in experience” might be made out, if we assume that older people will tend to have more experience. In the same two year period 2011-2013, there was a 7.1% increase in the number of 50-59 year olds – some 320,000 people. At the same time, the other age groups saw increases in employment of just 0.6%-1.3% (with less people employed in the 16-21 age groups).
Of the older age groups, the numbers in employment are increasing at a disproportionate rate compared to other age groups.
CLAIM 2: Earnings for the over 60s rose by 6.1% to £17,250
Looking at the data, the article looks to have gotten this figure correct. The median pay for those in the over 60 age group was indeed £17,253. This is the figure for total gross earnings.
But without any context, this figure is meaningless. Is that a “good” wage comparatively speaking? Are the over 60s well paid? The article fails to give the wage of any other age group.
So, in order to correct this, we have set out the annual earnings amounts below.
As you can see, the median wage of those 60+ is actually the third lowest amongst age groups and over £4,600 lower than the national average. The only age groups with lower annual earnings are the 16-17 year olds and 18-21 year olds (and arguably, special circumstances apply to those age groups e.g. lawfully lower rates of minimum wage).
So why are over 60s amongst the lowest earners by age group? The next chart may shed some light. It shows the breakdown of jobs split between full time and part time employment.
Of those aged over 60 and who are working, there are a lot more people working part time, compared to those aged 21-59. Of those over 60s in employment in 2004, 55.21% worked full time – more or less exactly the same as in 2013.
CLAIM 3: Women over 60 have seen average earnings increasing by 11.4% compared with 4.2% for men
It’s not clear in relation to this claim whether the article is referring to the median earnings or the mean earnings. “Average” can mean either. But if we assume the article is referring to median, then the article gets the sums broadly correct. Median pay went from £10,597 to £11,722, a rise of 11.09%. This compares with a change in men’s pay from £21,534 to £22,433.
Perhaps the more interesting story that comes from this data is not the large increase, but the relative difference in median earnings amounts. Over 60s men earn nearly twice as much as women. The reason for this is that around two thirds of the over 60s women work part time, whereas 70% of over 60s men work full time, so obviously men will earn a lot more over the course of a year.
The 11%+ increase in women’s annual earnings is a lot, but given that most of the workforce is part time, there is scope for it to increase a lot. A part time worker can boost their pay simply by working more hours, and, given that the economy seems to be improving, there is potentially more work on offer. The potential for pay rises is much more limited for someone who is already working full time
- The 2004 data is available here.
- The 2005 data is available here.
- The 2006 data is available here.
- The 2007 data is available here.
- The 2008 data is available here.
- The 2009 data is available here.
- The 2010 (revised) data is available here.
- The 2011 data is available here.
- The 2012 data is available here.
- The 2013 data is available here.
- The spreadsheet used in our analysis is available here.