Why are so many people joining the so-called ‘grey workforce’? What do you think? | J.H.¶


In a very uncertain world, one thing is for sure I’m afraid - and that is by the time we reach the year 2030 - a job, or indeed work, maybe a completely different concept from what it is today.

Now, if this is true, it will make a massive impact upon us all, as - work, a job, employment, is a central part of most of our lives and has been since time immemorial. But what happens when we are not needed anymore and some gizmo-thingy does what we used to do much better than we ever did it - and without all the moaning and groaning and ill-disguised truculence that we would bring to our place of work?

Seriously, if you are lucky enough to be in gainful employment, what would you think if a shiny piece of kit-and-equipment that would never throw-a-sickie or eat someone’s else’s sandwiches in the office fridge suddenly took over your job?

I suppose that we have to trust in our politicians to sort out what we will all do with our lives in the sunny uplands of a future without work of sorts, but in the meantime it seems that society is going through a period of post Covid-19 upheaval, whereupon young people who need to be in employment aren’t - and some of us who should have reached retirement are taking on new careers.

Almost anywhere you go in Britain you see adverts for jobs. Local newspapers are full of them and when you walk down any High Street you will find either professional looking posters or scribbled notes in shop windows appealing for staff both full-time and part-time. In terms of newspapers, our local paper here, The Cheltenham Post featured a front page story only yesterday that highlighted the huge number of job opportunities that are currently available to job seekers.

It seems that some potential employers are becoming desperate to recruit staff - some blame Brexit for the lack of workers particularly at the lower end of the market - others make the point that a critical lack of staffing is bound to lift wages for certain workers. Personally, I’ll believe this when I see it - although government has steadily increased the minimum hourly wage available to workers.

This age and employment reversal is quite evident in the UK at the moment particularly in the retail sector. Go to any large store from Marks & Spencer to Boots from Poundland (not me of ‘natch!) via B&Q and chances are you will be served by someone past retirement age. Please don’t approach them and do what I did the other day, as in - “How old are you then mate?” as it might, and did cause offence; but then some people can be awfully precious can’t they?

Anyway, once you notice that wherever you go you are being served by pensionistas it’s hard to stop counting how many of them are sat at tills and advising folk of the best lawnmower to buy and other such stuff that only old people know about. As someone who, at this time, is consciously de-coupling from his working life I am fascinated by the fact that so many people are joining the so-called ‘grey workforce.’ What’s up with them; do they hate their spouses so much that they would rather work than watch Alan Titchmarsh on daytime television?

Don’t answer that. Part of this phenomenon is I suspect boredom. Yes, boredom; after a busy professional life doing whatever, to suddenly stop doing what you have done for decades can be somewhat of a strain. Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to embark on another full-on career, but the odd shift here and there to keep the mental wheels ticking-over and a few quid to supplement a pension can be most welcome.

All I do know, is that here in the United Kingdom those of a mature disposition are positively sought after by certain employers, for all sorts of reasons I guess. Among them might be a work ethic that after decades of toil is hard to shake off and little things like turning up on time and actually wanting the job.

In Majorca, you don’t often meet older members of staff outside of family run business’s, and this is apparently due to the fact that a pensioner cannot generally receive his or her pension until they completely finish with paid work. Nevertheless here in Britain, there seems to be a number of areas where older citizens can and do seek to work, encouraged, it has to be said by employers who will actively look to employ - ahem, the more mature person, because - let’s face it, they still have a highly concentrated work ethic and are usually very reliable.

Otherwise, why would they do it? However, I have to end on a rather perplexing note. At a recent visit to Waitrose (there’s posh!) as I bagged up the weekly shop I noticed that she was having an animated conversation with the checkout bloke. What was that all about? I remarked, as I tried to steer the trolley with wobbly wheels to the carpark.

“Nothing really” she said, “I was just asking him about his job and what hours he does - you know, just asking.” Anyway, I was forced to give her a Chinese burn in the car on the way home, where she admitted that she was vaguely thinking of a new career opportunity for - guess who? - ME! It appears that her new boyfriend is reasonably well compensated for his time, he keeps out of the way of his wife and he gets to chat up all those posh yummy-mummy’s who shop in the store. Hey, I’m thinking about it!