Employees over 50 will be the backbone of the South East workforce over coming years, according to the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).

Making the Most of Opportunities for Older Workers in the South East urges businesses in the region to review their recruitment practices to prepare for the ‘demographic time bomb’ which will see a shortfall of people for 250,000 jobs by 2020 that will have to be filled by older workers.

The ‘demographic time bomb’ over the next decade will result in more workers in their 50s and fewer in their 40s. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of workers in their 40s in the South East will fall by about 140,000 over the next decade while people in their 50s will increase by around 200,000.

Research form SEEDA has also suggested that 100,000 economically inactive people aged 50-65 would come back to work if offered the chance.

Rob Douglas, SEEDA chairman, said: As the economy emerges from recession, retaining the skills and experience of older workers will be vital to the UK’s continued economic growth and competitiveness. Where employers have previously looked to recruit people in their 40s, more and more will need to look to people over 50. We know that employers can be very flexible about their workforce – the way in which many workers have been retained during the downturn has proved this. The challenge now to South East employers is to be much more flexible in their approach to recruitment.

The research followed the 40-70 Tomorrow’s Workforce Programme, which ran from 2008-2010 and focussed on eight projects that piloted ways to encourage older people to stay in work and to encourage employees to broaden their recruitment pool. The programme re-engaged 3,500 workers throughout the region and was successful in making businesses aware of the benefits of employing older workers.