A report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) has found that more people than ever before are starting a business beyond the age of 50.
The UK Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report measures entrepreneurial activity, attitudes and aspirations throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as in France, Germany and the US. It found that the UK outperformed other European countries including France and Germany on almost all entrepreneurship indicators in 2013.
According to the authors of the report – Professor Mark Hart of Aston Business School and Professor Jonathan Levie of the University of Strathclyde – the surge in the number of older entrepreneurs reflects a new trend in the UK's changing economy.
From 2002 to 2008, entrepreneurial activity among the over-50s has had a long-run average of just 4% – much lower than those in the 18-29 and 30-49 age brackets. However, from 2008, the rate for over-50s has shown a marked increase – reaching an all-time high of 6.5% in 2013. By comparison, the number of new entrepreneurs in the younger age brackets has fallen since 2012.
Professor Hart said: "The shake-up from the recession has provided the impetus for people over 50 to say that it's time to do something that they've always wanted to do and to take an opportunistic approach to creating their own business. These are not people who are past retirement, but individuals with years of productive activity in front of them."
Older entrepreneurs typically start up a new business to take advantage of a new opportunity, but some are driven by a lack of work. Professor Hart said: "While the majority of businesses started by the over-50s are driven by opportunity, there is an element of necessity behind this increase in new start-ups. That can point to an element of age discrimination, as people in this age group struggle to get into the job market and are forced into launching their own businesses to get back to work."
Alastair Clegg, chief executive of PRIME (The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise) said: "Everyone is talking about the rise of self-employment and new businesses being started and this report confirms that it's the over-50s who are driving this positive trend forward. The over-50s have the skills, experience and dedication that naturally lend themselves to enterprise."