Scotland’s latest Census data was released last week (14th September).
As usual, there are some interesting takeaways (depending on how deep you want to delve!). Often it’s things that we think we know, but this data only serves to corroborate that.
Our demographic landscape is evolving and it’s bound to have implications for the construction industry and talent/skills.
You can guess from the headline what my key takeaway is – Scotland is getting older.
There are now over one million people aged 65 and over (1,091,000), which is more than a quarter of a million higher than the number of people under 15 (832,300). The number of people in older age groups (65+) has increased by 22.5% since 2011. This shift reflects an ongoing transition, in which the proportion of older people is increasing while the proportion of younger people is decreasing.
For some context to that, in 1971, there were twice as many people under 15 as there were aged 65 and over!
As the number of older adults continues to rise, it has far-reaching implications, especially in the realm of housing. Housebuilders, in particular, need to pay close attention to these changes as they shape the future demand for housing. Here are just a few ways that Scotland’s ageing population might affect housing requirements for housebuilders;
• Accessibility and Universal Design: Housebuilders need to consider designing homes that are universally accessible, ensuring that they can accommodate residents with varying mobility levels.
• Single-Story Living: Older adults may prefer single-story living to avoid navigating stairs. We know from research that generally, older adults tend to prefer smaller/more manageable accommodation.
• Technology Integration: Bear with me here, but as older adults increasingly embrace technology for healthcare monitoring and communication, housebuilders will need to consider integrating smart home technology into their designs to enhance convenience and safety.
• Multi-generational Housing: While the older population is growing, it’s also essential to recognise the diversity within this demographic. Some older adults may seek multigenerational housing options that allow them to live with their families. Housebuilders will need to explore this trend.
Moving away from the ageing population for a moment, in general, Scotland’s population only grew by 141,200 (2.7%) since the previous census in 2011, way behind the other home nations (England & Wales grew by 6.1% and Northern Ireland 5.1%).
Without migration, the population would actually have decreased by 49,800…
Taking this & the above point around the ageing population together, there are several things that as a country we’ll need to be alive to;
• Migration and Workforce Diversity: To counteract potential talent shortages, Scotland will continue to rely on immigration to supplement its workforce. Encouraging a diverse and inclusive skills market can help attract talent from both within the country and abroad.
• Redefining Retirement: Not to be confused with ‘Redefining Recruitment’! The idea of retirement is evolving. Many older adults may seek part-time, flexible, or encore career opportunities after retiring from their primary careers. Employers willing to tap into this experienced talent pool can benefit from the skills and expertise of older workers.
• Skills and Knowledge Transfer: With an ageing population, there is a need to facilitate the transfer of skills and knowledge from older workers to younger generations. This is particularly relevant in industries or sectors where experienced professionals are retiring, i.e. construction. Employers and governments need to invest in mentorship programs and knowledge-sharing initiatives to ensure that critical skills are passed down.
• ‘Labour Force Participation’: As the number of older adults increases, some may choose to extend their working years beyond the traditional retirement age. This can help mitigate talent shortages to some extent by maintaining a skilled workforce for a more extended period. Employers should be thinking about whether they can create flexible work arrangements and age-friendly workplaces to encourage older workers to stay in the labour force.
One thing that isn’t in doubt, balancing the needs of the ageing population with those of the workforce, alongside a successful targeted migration policy, will be essential for ensuring Scotland’s economic growth and sustainability in the years to come.