£643.8 million a week - the hidden value of unpaid work by the over-65s

Article date: 12 December 2012

  • UK’s over-65 ‘volunteer army’ works 104m hours a week
  • Main beneficiaries are families, charities and local communities

UK retirees are embracing voluntary work and providing vital help to families, charities and local communities, according to Aviva’s latest Real Retirement Report.

With 10.4 million over-65s typically giving up 10 hours each week to volunteer and support their families, the combined efforts of this ‘volunteer army’ add up to 104 million hours of free support: worth £643.8 million per week at the national minimum wage.

Helping families:
The report shows many over-55s are focusing on those closest to them in their retirement, with 50% helping or planning to help their families with occasional babysitting and 35% extending their family duties to include regular child-minding.

The typical over-55 who provides regular child-minding clocks up 30 hours a month, or 363 hours every year.  At minimum wage, this is equivalent to £2,247 worth of free childcare – but with figures suggesting the average yearly spend on childcare for a child under the age of two is £5,103*, the support of a retired relative is likely to be worth far more.

Recognising the financial pressures that later life can bring, 30% of over-55s plan to continue working part-time during their retirement.  But up to 46% also look for unpaid work in the voluntary sector in the form of fundraising, helping in a charity shop or providing practical support in the community such as ‘meals on wheels’.

Volunteering is popular:
Working in a charity shop (20%) is the most popular activity for over-55s seeking unpaid work, followed by a committee or trustee role (19%), teaching children to read (18%) and practical help such as DIY or cooking for people who need it (12%) (see table below for details). 

Most popular type of voluntary work:

  ALL 55–64s 65–74s Over 75s
Working in a charity shop 20% 22% 17% 15%
Sitting on a committee / being a trustee 19% 18% 20% 20%
Teaching children to read 18% 18% 18% 18%
Practical help such as DIY for people who need it 12% 14% 10% 8%
Mentoring young people 11% 14% 7% 6%
Looking after older people 7% 7% 7% 8%

In return, volunteering or fundraising offers retirees a sense of giving something back to their community, with almost half (49%) citing this as a benefit.  For 48%, unpaid work helps to get them out of the house, while 41% value the chance to mix with people of all age groups.

However, the over-55s haven’t given up on embracing their freedom after finishing full-time work.  With an established market for ‘grey gap years’, travel ranks as the second most popular retirement pursuit overall (44%) – behind occasional babysitting – and 18% of over-55s use some or all of the tax-free lump sum from their annuity to fund their travel plans.

Other favourite retirement pastimes are more modest and based closer to home, with 42% wanting to spend more time in the garden, 37% looking for more contact with family and 33% aiming to socialise more with friends.

Clive Bolton, managing director of Aviva’s At Retirement business, comments: “The figures spell out what many families know from experience – that support from a retired relative, when it comes to childcare, can make a world of difference.  And the number of hours retirees commit to charity work and community projects tells only half the story about how society benefits from their committed efforts. In many cases, this support for people in need is truly invaluable.

“Still, the fact that three in ten over-55s intend to find part-time work after retiring suggests, for all the benefits of volunteering, a financial cushion is still important.  This is especially true if you hope to work through your list of ‘must see’ travel destinations once you’re freed from full-time work.  The more you can plan ahead to fund your retirement, the more you can afford the luxury of choice about how to spend your time in later years.”

Download Real Retirement Report Winter 2012 PDF (4.5MB)


The Real Retirement Report was designed and produced by Wriglesworth Research.  As part of this more than 14,600 UK consumers aged over 55 were interviewed between February 2010 and November 2012.  This data was used to form the basis of the Aviva Real Retirement Report.  Wherever possible, the same data parameters have been used for analysis but some additions or changes have been made as other tracking topics become apparent. Population projections from ONS.

- Ends -
If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Aviva Press Office: Tom Wilson: 01904 684 283 / 07800 692053 or tom.wilson@aviva.co.uk
The Wriglesworth Consultancy: Lee Blackwell / Andy Lane 020 7427 1400 / l.blackwell@wriglesworth.com

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Aviva provides insurance, savings and investment products to 43 million customers worldwide.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with over 14 million customers and one of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance. We combine strong life insurance, general insurance and asset management businesses under one powerful brand. We are committed to serving our customers well in order to build a stronger, sustainable business, which makes a positive contribution to society, and for which our people are proud to work.

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