Two perspectives on UK demographics in 2020

The dichotomy presented by the UK's ageing populationAs we head towards 2020, the UK’s ageing population is presenting a dichotomy to businesses, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations.

Earlier this year, I considered what the ageing population means for businesses. Recently, I have looked at the same question from the perspective of the third sector and am really looking forward to speaking about it at Claranet’s “Connecting your charity to the future” seminar on Friday.

The contrast between the business view and the Third Sector view is so interesting that I felt drawn to write a post about it.

UK demographics: seen through the business lens

We are living longer.

We are delaying retirement either because the government is pushing the retirement age up or because people are choosing to stay in the workplace. Either way, the result is the same - the number of older people in the workforce is rising.

By 2020, we could have 5 generations in the workplace. The “older guard” born in 1946 will be 74 years of age. Each generation will have different expectations of what IT and Communications services should provide them to help them to do their jobs. It is down to IT Directors or CIOs to make sure that the technology services they deliver suit all needs and skills levels. This is a pretty tough challenge.

Having more people in work doesn’t mean our future is catered for. The UK is already short of IT and tech skills. One in 6 of IT jobs in the UK today is classed as “hard to fill”. Businesses across the country are pointing to skills shortages in business analytics, business intelligence, systems monitoring and enterprise architecture.

As all of our working and personal lives become increasingly centred around technology, hiring the right skills will only get harder for businesses.

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills we need 300,000 more digital workers by 2020. I expect this shortfall to force UK companies to look to the global talent pools to find the workers needed to succeed.

Yet when I talk to UK businesses about hiring overseas people, most of them say that this isn’t on their agenda yet. Companies are in dialogue with our colleges and universities which is a great idea but I doubt it will provide enough resource in the time needed.

I would suggest it’s time for a re-think.

UK demographics: seen through the Third Sector lens

We are living longer.

This is often portrayed as a problem. An ageing population must be looked after, paid for and so on.

Yet by 2020, volunteering work performed by people aged over 65 will be worth more than £15 billion.

A quote from a government report issued this April emphasises the point I am making well; “skilled and experienced older people are retiring "in droves" and charities urgently need to adapt to the ageing population to exploit this opportunity if they are to thrive in the future. People retiring today are more skilled and more savvy than any generation before them, and they will bring years of experience and expertise to charities.”

As charities move towards becoming Social Enterprises, I believe these skills will be absolutely invaluable.

The dichotomy

We are living longer.

For businesses, this presents the challenge of delivering technology services to a highly diverse user base in order to compete on a global stage.

For the Third Sector, it presents the opportunity of engaging highly skilled business people to help Social Enterprises and Charities to thrive all around the world.