Ageing Better responds to suggestion over 50s should look for jobs in the ‘gig economy’
The Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride recently suggested that older workers consider work in the ‘gig economy’, such as being a Deliveroo driver.
Our Senior Research and Policy Manager for Work, Luke Price, responds that while it is important that there are work opportunities for over 50s, they need to be suitable for older workers.
The number of over 50s who are economically inactive (neither in work nor looking for work) is yet to return to the lower rates seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, has suggested that out-of-work over 50s “consider options they might not have otherwise thought of”, including those traditionally seen as being for younger workers.
Stride said that working for food delivery company Deliveroo offers “the ability of log on and off anytime you like, no requirement to have to do a certain number of hours over a certain period of time, which is driving huge opportunities”.
However, Tim Sharp, the TUC’s senior policy officer for employment rights, warned that Stride’s comments “risk glorifying the gig economy” where “often pay is low, there’s often no job security, [and] little if any employment rights.”
Luke Price, Senior Research and Policy Manager for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“We know that flexible working is the number one workplace factor that over 50s say would help them remain in work for longer. But often older workers need flexibility to enable them to care for grandchildren, children or older relatives, which can often have quite rigid time schedules that don’t fit with this kind of work.
“We need a broad definition of what ‘flexibility’ means in the workplace and, perhaps more importantly, flexibility must work for both the employee and the employer. All too often flexibility is weighted much more in favour of employers, whether that’s through zero hour contracts or gig economy work.
“Mel Stride is right to recognise the value of being in work for people in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Being in work can help us to stay healthy, connected and fulfilled as we get older. But poor health is one of the key drivers of economic inactivity. Many older workers will struggle engage with jobs such as being a delivery driver, even if people of any age could benefit from increased physical activity. Jobs in the ‘gig economy’ are far from a straightforward path to economic activity and ageing better.
“What’s more, jobs such as being a Deliveroo driver offer limited job security and benefits. Employees are vulnerable to losing their role at any time, and lack access to sickpay, workplace pensions and other benefits. And for older workers who are towards the latter end of their careers, being able to plan for the future and build up their savings for retirement is particularly important.
“There is an undeniable benefit to defying stereotypes and expectations of what jobs older workers can do. It is important for employers to ensure that their opportunities are seen as suitable for a wide range of workers, including those of different ages. But zero-hours contracts may not be quite as suitable for over 50s as Mel Stride suggests.”