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If there is a drawback to Second Reading (the House of Commons Library blog), it’s that the library’s stern practice of impartiality means that it can end up producing figures on a phenomenon without being able to explain why that phenomenon came about.

So it is with yesterday’s figures on ‘Older people in the UK labour market’ – which looks at key statistics regarding older people who are still in work.

First we get a graph showing that the number of people aged over 65 who are still in work has more than doubled, from 4.9 per cent in 1994 to 10.1 per cent (of 11 million people, making 1.1 million) in 2014.


Before anybody leaps in to say they’re taking jobs away from younger people, it is worth reading on to discover that they are far more likely to be self-employed or working part-time (79 per cent of the total, with 39 per cent self-employed – 438,000 people).

That’s really as far as Second Reading can go. Fortunately we have Flip Chart Fairy Tales to provide more insight into the reasons. In an article posted on August 1 this year, this blog states:

Chris Giles wrote a piece in the FT this week arguing that most of the increase [in self-employment] is due not to lots more people becoming self-employed but to lots more people not leaving self-employment who would otherwise have done so.

If that’s the case, you can’t even blame the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings after 2008 on there being lots of new people who didn’t know what they were doing. If Chris is right, this is old-timers seeing their business shrink, rather than newbies trying to find their feet, under-charging and messing things up [all boldings mine].

The same goes for the increase in the number of self-employed tax credit claimants and the steady rise in non-employing and non-VAT paying businesses. If there has been no surge in new entrants, then either a lot of low profit and low turnover businesses are hanging on in there, or a lot more of them have become low-profit and low turnover businesses since 2008.

Chris says we should stop complaining because self-employment boosts tax revenues. It hasn’t done much boosting in recent years though. Despite the increase in numbers of people, the declared income of the self-employed was down by £8bn between 2008 and 2012.

What we’re seeing, then, is a huge rise in the number of people who find themselves unable to retire because they won’t have enough income to support themselves.

It has been said that Conservatives try to look after the elderly, because they are the only population group that is sure to vote in elections.

It seems the Tories have forgotten around 1.1 million of them.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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