There is increasing concern about the impact of the pandemic on older workers who become unemployed. Latest analysis shows that the number of unemployed over-50s in the UK has increased by a third and, according to the Centre for Ageing Better, there is a real risk of them being overlooked and falling into long-term unemployment.
Almost a third of the UK’s workforce is aged over 50, reflecting an ageing population and a steady rise over two decades in the employment rate of older workers. Almost three-quarters of people aged 50-64 were in work in 2020, compared with just 56 per cent in 1984, according to official statistics.
In September, the Resolution Foundation found that furloughed workers in the oldest age group range – 55 to 64 – were the least likely to have fully returned to work. And since March, the number of people aged 50-plus claiming unemployment-related benefits has doubled. Figures also show that almost one in three older workers were out of work for more than 12 months, and are twice as likely to be in long-term unemployment than younger adults.
The Centre for Ageing Better says that ageism in the jobs market is one of the main barriers older workers face. A quarter of over-50s said they have been put off applying for jobs because it seemed as if they were aimed at younger candidates, and a third believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age.
The government is right to support young people into employment as part of their Plan for Jobs, but it seems that there is a danger of prolonged unemployment for older workers if nothing is done to support them.