GUEST COMMENT: Why is the City population so young?

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The City likes to portray itself as a youthful, vibrant, dynamic place. It’s certainly youthful.

During the time I spent working in the financial sector, the demographic profile of the industry changed radically. At the firms I worked for in the late 80’s and early 90’s individuals in the 40-60 age bracket accounted for around half the workforce.

By the time I was made redundant that proportion had fallen to less than a third, even though there were more over 40’s in the population as a whole by that time.

Why?

One reason is clearly hours: especially in the present financial climate, individuals are expected to work far longer hours than are healthy.

A recent blog on this website featured case studies of graduate trainees and interns who were working on average 80-100 hours per week. That may suit a 20 something in their first job or in their final year at university, but many of us over 40’s have partners, children and even elderly parents to support.

Juggling all these commitments around 80 hour weeks is simply not possible.

Another reason is, ‘fit.’ Line managers in their 30’s are managing teams of people mainly in their 20’s. There’s a strong degree of homogeneity, people have only recently left university and are hardly likely to welcome someone in their 40’s or 50’s into their team.  On paper they will be a complete misfit and they are likely to be more technically knowledgeable that the hiring managers themselves and will need to be “managed” in a different way.

Of course none of this would ever be admitted publicly since age discrimination is now illegal, but as a result of these attitudes towards older workers, the City is becoming an increasingly short term career.

The City is losing out

This does not mean, however, that people in their 40’s and 50’s do not have a great deal to offer employers - aside from a wealth of experience and technical knowledge there are a number of “life” skills - adaptability, effective communication, dealing with difficult individuals/situations, problem solving, money management, counselling etc - which only come with age and the different experiences which one encounters as they proceed along life’s journey.

Also, for those recruiters and employers out there who believe that over 40’s are in some way past it, I would respectfully like to point out to them that having teenagers is a great way to stay young.

A combination of demographic factors, medical science, and a crippling budget deficit have necessitated raising the statutory retirement age to 68 over the next few years.

Given the depressed state of global financial markets since 2001 and the virtual demise of final salary pensions, over 50’s are likely to remain in the labour market for far longer than previous generations. Unfortunately finding employment, especially in the financial sector when one has reached that time of life is becoming increasingly difficult - according to official statistics nearly half a million over 50’s are currently unemployed and the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.

The author used to work in the City, but was forced to change careers after 40.

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