Decline of digital know-how among older workers prompts ageing workforce concerns

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people, which is equivalent to 12.6 million people, in the UK lack at least one of five digital skills deemed important by digital skills charity Go ON UK.

The basic digital skills measured by the charity in their Basic Digital Skills UK report, 2015 are managing information, communicating, transacting (including buying and selling goods online), problem solving and creating basic digital content.

Older people fared poorly, with basic digital skills starting to decline in the 45 to 54 age range. Less than half (43 per cent) of those in the 65-plus age bracket demonstrated all five of the skills.

“As people are increasingly working beyond 65, it is important they have these basic digital skills if they intend to continue in the workforce,” Rachel Neaman, chief executive of Go ON UK, told People Management.

Neaman said that substandard digital skills are causing recruitment problems. “Almost all jobs are advertised online only and are applied for online. So if you don’t have the skills either to look for a job online, let alone to create a CV or apply for a job online, fill in the application form online, then you are going to disadvantaged from the off. I think that recruitment systems and HR departments need to be much more mindful that these skills are not as common as we think.”

Being employed seems to support digital skills, with 89 per cent of those in work having all five digital skills, compared to 72 per cent of unemployed people and 47 per cent of retirees. Students and those at school have the highest levels of digital skills, with 93 per cent possessing all five skills.

The report also highlights regional differences. Greater London has the highest levels of people with all five digital skills (84 per cent), followed by Scotland and East Anglia (both 81 per cent). Wales, however, has the lowest proportion of people with all the digital skills they need (62 per cent).

The report’s findings have been incorporated into the charity’s new Digital Exclusion Heatmap, which illustrates the level of digital skills across the UK.

Ellen Helsper, associate professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who developed the heatmap, said: “The map is a wake-up call. It shows clearly how social and digital exclusion are closely related. The lack of basic digital skills and access in already disadvantaged areas is likely to lead to an increase in inequality of opportunity around the UK”.

The report was produced on behalf of Go ON UK by Ipsos Mori and was created in association with Lloyds Banking Group.