THE rising number of older workers across different professions needs to be addressed after figures revealed more than a third of nurses and midwives are over 50, politicians have warned.

The number of over 55s employed in the two professions rose from 13.9% to 16.2% in the three years to 2013, according to Freedom of Information (FoI) data, while the proportion of those aged 50 and over went from 30% to 35.3% during the same period.

The Scottish Conservatives, which obtained the FoI figures, warned there could be shortages as older workers in nursing and midwifery retire.

The party's health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said: "Retirement will very much be on the mind of thousands of nurses. Now is the time to prepare for that, and increasing the number of young Scottish people training for this valued profession is the way to do it.

"It would be entirely regrettable if, several years down the line, we are forced to recruit nurses from all corners of the globe because of the short-sightedness of the Scottish Government."

But Strathclyde University economist Professor Robert E. Wright denied this and pointed out that counterparts in the US, Canada and Australia have gone down the road of overseas recruitment.

He said training Scottish nursing students for skilled senior and specialist posts while bringing in junior and assistant nurses from the likes of Malaysia on work permits was likely to prove the best way forward.

He also pointed out that by 2010 more than half of those employed in farming and fishing were over 55.

In the previous five years the numbers in this age in public administration and education more than doubled, while those among this age group in the energy and water supply sector more than trebled.

In terms of teaching, he pointed out that if, as expected, the current rise in the birth rate was a blip which returned to a lower level, there was unlikely to be a shortage of teachers even allowing for the numbers approaching retirement.

Data from the National Records of Scotland suggests the country's population will rise by almost half a million people, partly because of increased life expectancy.

An 86% rise in the number of over-75s would contribute to the overall population swelling by 9% to nearly 5.8 million by 2037.

The document also stated the number of those of pensionable age will go up by more than one-quarter in the next 25 years, while those aged between 60 and 74 would also rise sharply.

While the Conservatives use this to predict a looming NHS crisis, researchers at Edinburgh University disputed the notion of the "demographic time bomb".

Writing in the British Medical Journal Jeroen Spijker and John MacInnes said the current old age dependency ratio which divided the number of pensioners by the number of people of working age failed to take account of the number of OAPs who were not dependent and the number of younger ones who were.