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Bright Blue has launched the latest edition of its magazine Centre Write on ‘The future of work’, advocating that the UK should have a higher proportion of people in their late sixties and seventies in work to boost individual and national prosperity.

The magazine includes contributions from a range of leading politicians and opinion formers, including the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills ‐ the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP -­ and an interview with the Minister for Employment, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP.

Bright Blue calls on the Government to introduce new policies to ensure those who aspire to work when they are aged 65 or over are better supported. Bright Blue argues that if babyboomers in particular decide to work for a greater number of years they will be contributing enormously to the economy and helping to create more intergenerational fairness.

The current Government has already adopted Bright Blue’s recommended policy of enabling working grandparents to be entitled to Shared Parental Leave, so more older workers can stay in work and meet their family commitments.

Bright Blue is now calling for the introduction of a new lifetime Higher Education (HE) loan account for all adults to be able to obtain financial support to pay the tuition fees of HE courses to upskill and reskill throughout their working lives, so people are better able to work for longer later in life.

In her interview to Bright Blue, the Minister for Employment, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, commented:

“People are living longer and it is absolutely right that you are not consigned to a rocking chair and labelled ‘past it’ when you are in your 50s, 60s or even 70s”.

Commenting, Director of Bright Blue, Ryan Shorthouse, said:

“People should aspire to still be in some form of employment in their late sixties and even in their early seventies. Of course some people will not be well enough or won’t have suitable employment. But an increasing number of those in their late sixties and seventies are fit and healthy, and can contribute enormously to the UK economy.

“Our  increasingly service‐based economy and flexible labour market means there are more opportunities for ‘gradual  retirement’ in the UK -­ through part‐time and flexible work, or self‐employment. People in their sixties and seventies shouldn’t be looking to stop work, but finding employment that is compatible with their lifestyle and other priorities.

“Working at an older age is good for individual and national prosperity. You are significantly more likely to have a higher income in retirement if you work for longer. It is also crucial to boost older employment to ensure the UK’s ageing population does not become fiscally unsustainable. In particular, the babyboomer generation would be providing a huge contribution to our society if more of them worked for longer. It would help deliver more intergenerational fairness.

“Those with higher educational qualifications are more likely to be working at an older age. If people are to have longer working lives, it is vital that training and education is encouraged and accessible no matter your age.”

To support people to be in a position to work at an older age, Bright Blue is calling for the introduction of a lifetime HE tuition fee loan account so people are given  sufficient  financial support to upskill and reskill throughout their lives.

Our recent report advocated that all eligible adults from the UK and other EU aged 18 onwards should be entitled to access a lifetime HE tuition fee loan account from government to pay for tuition of any HE course ‐ full-time or part‐time ‐ in England during their lifetime. This means that  adults of whatever age could access this account to pay for equivalent or lower  qualifications, or courses below a certain intensity.

Those who are older can currently access tuition fee loans for undergraduate courses, and in the future, those aged up to 60 will be able to access tuition fee loans for postgraduate courses. But these tuition fee loans are not available for those undertaking equivalent or lower qualifications, or those undertaking courses that are studied below a certain intensity of hours per week.

The amount in the lifetime loan account should be determined after extensive consultation led by government. It should take into account that the amount would have to be high enough to take into account people studying multiple degrees. However, the loan account should also be low enough to trigger price competition and, in particular, downward pressure on undergraduate tuition fees in England.

Similar to the current system, students will repay the amount they have borrowed  from  their lifetime loan account to the Student Loans Company through the PAYE system. This tuition fee loan will be separate and junior to the maintenance loan UK students can obtain for a first undergraduate degree.

To achieve a key test of fiscal neutrality, the report proposes that: the government’s cap (currently £9,000, but could rise with inflation for those proving they comply with the new Teaching Excellence Framework from 2017‐18 on undergraduate tuition fees at English public universities) should remain; and, the parameters for the repayment of the lifetime HE tuition fee loan  account (for example, the minimum salary for repayment or the interest rate) should be stricter for every additional qualification an individual obtains or if they are above a certain age when drawing down from the account.

To achieve a key test of progressivity, the report suggests maintaining sufficient subsidy to write-­off in part the loans of low lifetime earners. To do this, the government should seek higher repayments from high lifetime earners and introduce a ‘graduate levy’ on large graduate employers.

In our polling, 49% of the English public find the idea of a lifetime loan account personally appealing compared to only 15% who would find it unappealing. Support for Bright Blue’s policy is consistently high across all age groups: 51% of 18-­24 year olds find it personally appealing; 51% of 25‐34 year olds find it personally appealing; 47% of 35‐44 year olds; 54% of 45‐54 year olds; 49% of 55‐64 year  olds; and 43% of those aged 65 and above.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further media enquiries, please contact our Communications Manager of Bright Blue, Laura Round, on laura@brightblue.org.uk or 07543759844.