Golden Age Index 2023

Solving the puzzle of the UK's missing labour force

Getting over-55s back to work

According to the latest labour market data, one out of five people aged between 16 and 64 in the UK are neither employed nor looking for a job. Since the pandemic, the number of older inactive workers has increased by 244,000 - greater than the population of cities the size of Portsmouth in the UK. Whilst the employment rates of the majority of the UK population have recovered since the pandemic, workers over 55 years old did not experience a post-pandemic recovery.

Our latest Golden Age Index report shows the UK's lackluster performance on the Index, with the UK lagging behind a number of other advanced economies. Short-term labour force statistics suggest a further worsening of the employment situation for older workers in the UK. While most OECD countries witnessed an improvement in the employment rate of 55-64 year olds, the UK experienced a slight decline. Getting the UK’s over-55s back into the workforce is a key step to lowering the UK's rising inactivity levels and reintegrating some of our most experienced workers back into work.

Our Golden Age Index is a weighted average of seven indicators which reflect the labour market impact of workers aged over 55 in OECD countries, including employment, earnings and training. The key findings from our 2023 report are as follows:

  • New Zealand, Iceland and Japan take the top three spots. While New Zealand and Iceland have consistently ranked in the top five, Japan was a surprise entrant this year, surging through the ranks to enter the top three.
1st New Zealand, 2nd Iceland, 3rd Japan
  • The UK ranks 21st on our Index this year, underperforming relative to the OECD average. The UK lags behind other advanced economies in the participation rate of older workers in the workforce.  
  • In the UK, the majority of the rise in post-pandemic inactivity is attributed to older workers. Employment rates have recovered to pre-pandemic levels for all other age groups except older workers.
  • However, regional variations exist, with the South East reporting the highest rate of employment amongst over-55s and the North East reporting the lowest.
  • Our partial analysis of recently released data suggests that the UK’s future position on the Golden Age Index is likely to worsen. This is because the employment rate of 55-64 year olds improved across most OECD economies between 2021 and 2022, but fell slightly in the UK.

“I am not well and wouldn’t be able to work in a stressful environment. I would need part time and to be able to work from home.”

a 55-64 year old woman from London

  • Our analysis shows that house prices, investment income and NHS wait times have a material impact on the employment rate for the 55-64 year old age group. Our nationally representative survey also found that long-term health conditions prevent two out of five people from working full-time, not only amongst 55-64 year olds but the entire labour force.

Contact us

Barret Kupelian

Barret Kupelian

UK Chief Economist, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7711 562331

Anthony Bruce

Anthony Bruce

Chair of Health Industries, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7801 916767​

Follow us