old person using computer

Shortage of over-50s in IT ‘shows they need to reskill’

A report from the BCS (formerly the British Computer Society) has found that while 31 per cent of the UK workforce is aged 50 and above, just 22 per cent of people working in IT are over 50.

The BCS said that this was well below the level of representation that could be considered “normal” and warned that it was an indicator of the digital skills gap – the lack of working-age people with sufficient digital skills to meet demand from employers – and the need for over-50s to reskill.

If representation of over-50s in the IT sector was equal to the levels seen in other sectors, there would be an extra 119,000 IT specialists in the UK in this age group (480,000 in total), the study estimated.

The BCS, which charters IT professionals, said the need for digital skills has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic as more firms relied on remote working, placing greater reliance on their IT departments.

“The figure for over-50s working in IT is significantly lower than in other sectors, but government plans – recently outlined in the Queen’s Speech – to introduce a Lifetime Skills Guarantee is a significant step towards addressing the digital skills gap,” commented Kathy Farndon, chair of the BCS Society Board. “These plans will provide more people with access to the digital skills training they need to continue working in fulfilling careers and will help develop the skills the economy needs to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

Farndon added: “There continues to be a significant demand for digital skills, not just for an increasing number of digital occupations, but across all occupations as a result of businesses having to digitally transform during Covid. Currently, almost 70 per cent  of employers are struggling to find workers with the right skills, which is costing British industry billions.”

Representation of over-50s in IT jobs was lowest in London, where just 16 per cent were aged 50 and above during 2020. Over-50s make up 35 per cent of IT directors but just 10 per cent of web designers and developers. In general, over-50s are well represented in senior and managerial positions but poorly represented in development positions.

Other differences between older and younger groups included older IT specialists being more likely to be self-employed (13 per cent vs. nine per cent); working part time (nine per cent vs. four per cent); working in micro business sites (22 per cent vs. 12 per cent); holding managerial positions (47 per cent vs. 38 per cent); and they receive a highly median hourly pay (£24 per hour, which is 15 per cent more than for IT specialists as a whole). Younger IT specialists tend to be more likely to have a higher education qualification (72 per cent vs. 66 per cent).

The study also found that IT specialists over 50 were more likely than their younger counterparts to be unemployed, with an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent for IT specialists aged 16 to 49.

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