Who employs older workers?

There are always plenty of opinions floating around about which types of business employ younger people and whether or not this is fair or even sensible. I have expressed my own views on this often enough on this and other blogs.

Today though I opted for a different tack. I thought I’d run some numbers and see what they revealed.

This was by no means an exhaustive study, but I was amazed by what I found.

I expected there to be few discernible patterns and yet I found quite the opposite. This quick dip into the numbers showed conclusively that there is a huge variation across business sectors when it comes to the age of their staff.

My method was simple enough. I just took the average age of employee as recorded in the Sunday Times top 50 best UK companies to work for as reported for 2014.

To calculate a simple benchmark, assuming a normal distribution curve based on an age range of 18 years to 65 years old, the mean age of employees should be 41 years. Higher than this means the workforce is older; and vice versa.

Now of course this assumes also that the available workers for each age group are the same, which of course, they are not. The baby boomers for example created a significant swelling of their age group as a proportion of the total population. So my purely mathematical average cannot be taken as wholly accurate – just a rough approximation.

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I simply wanted to discover which, if any sectors had demonstrably older workers and which ones had younger workers.

Since the average age of employee is not a significant factor in the Sunday times’ ranking, we can take this as a more or less randomised sample of the age profiles of people working in UK businesses today.

Moreover, every one of these firms has been assessed to be well liked by their employees, so they also represent some of our best employers.

So based on this data, here is the average age of employee at the top 50’s best UK firms to work for which I have re-ranked by oldest average age of employee to youngest (the original list rank is also shown in the first column):

N.b. I am not suggesting that my re-ranking makes any of these companies more or less ageist. There are plenty of perfectly valid and legitimate reasons why a company might have an older or younger age profile within its workforce.

What I was interested in was to see if there were any patterns when I re-ranked the list - and there certainly are.

The two firms ranking first and second are both from the same sector – contract catering.

Three of my list’s top 10 are from the pharmaceutical/medical sectors.

On the other hand, four of the five firms at the youngest end of this list were from two sectors – recruitment and financial services.

This list reveals other facts too. First the range of average ages 45 at oldest to 21 at youngest, reveals a huge range of age profiles across the sample firms – clearly if you are only in your early forties, you are already well past the average age of the majority of sectors’ employees.

Second, taking the approximate average age we’d expect to see – c.41 years - only 6 firms (12% of the list) had an average age that was older than this.

To sum it up, if you are over 40 and looking for work, contract catering looks like your best bet unless you have experience from the pharmaceutical sector…

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