Older workers (aged 50-69 years old) account for almost one third (31%) of the UK’s workforce, and their changing work patterns may present certain challenges post-pandemic. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has issued a comprehensive report studying the dynamics of this population, and considers the wider implications.
Some of the key findings are:
- Older workers have been more likely to be furloughed than their younger counterparts, and are at risk of becoming unemployed once the job retention scheme ends;
- Finding work may be challenging for older people as more than two-thirds (69%) have been with their employer for more than five years. They are also less likely to change occupation which may be necessary if there are no vacancies in their current sector;
- Older jobseekers from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to struggle to find new work after a period of unemployment;
- Around 49% of people (and 39% of workers) aged 50–69 report a long-standing health problem. Older workers with long-term and work-limiting health problems are less likely to be in paid work in a year’s time than are similar workers without such a health problem;
- Some people in their 50s and 60s with long-standing health problems may have preferred, and been able, to stay in work if they had more flexibility or better support.
The report suggests that unemployed older workers will struggle more than their younger counterparts to find work, partly because they haven’t needed to in recent years, and also because they are less likely to change occupation. Also, only a third of unemployed people in their late 50s return to work within a year, so without targeted support there is a real concern that older people will become long-term unemployed and economically inactive.
Yet this population has much to offer potential employers, along with their occupation-specific skills many are hardworking, loyal and willing to learn, all key attributes for any team member. It is important that employers recognise their potential and that state employment services are equitable with over-50s receiving the same level of support as younger people.