Exodus of experienced workers from the jobs market continues
New stats show there's still a significant gap to pre-pandemic levels of employment of older workers, despite a successful bounce back for other age groups .
Nearly 3.5 million people aged 50-64 are economically inactive – 230,000 more than before the pandemic. Measures such as day-one flexible working and Carer’s leave are needed to help fill vacancies with older workers.
The exodus of older workers from the labour market continues to be a standout concern in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Labour market figures released today show 26.8% of all people of aged 50-64 are ‘economically inactive’ – neither in work nor looking for work – up from 25.4% before the start of the pandemic.
At Ageing Better we're urging candidates in the Conservative Party leader contest to set out how they will tackle the emerging employment crisis resulting from the long-term impact of the pandemic. The next UK Prime Minister will urgently need to have a plan in place to tackle a problem that's showing no signs of disappearing by the time Number 10 has a new occupant in September.
The latest ONS figures for over 50s in work show a similarly concerning trend. The employment rate for people aged 35-49 has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with 85.9% of people in this age group in employment again. Yet, the same has not been true for the 50-64 group (71.2%), with the employment gap between the two age groups now rising to almost 15 percentage points.
The new figures follow concerning survey results from the British Chambers of Commerce last week which highlighted more than three-quarters of firms struggling to recruit workers.
The new Prime Minister and their cabinet will need to find ways to encourage more employers to adopt flexible working policies and remove age-bias from recruitment processes, which are key to helping over 50s remain in work. Moreover, targeted action is needed for those who have dropped out of the labour market entirely, an altogether harder to reach group.
Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“The UK’s dire shortage of skilled workers is continuing – driven in part by older workers leaving the labour market. There are 230,000 fewer people aged 50-64 participating in the workforce than there were at the start of the pandemic.
“This needs to be an urgent priority for the next Prime Minister. We’ve heard little or nothing about the skills shortage in the leadership contest so far, but all the data from the labour market indicates this is a major headache for the UK economy. The latest ONS Labour Market stats, coupled with last week’s British Chambers of Commerce survey highlighting that more than three-quarters of businesses are reporting recruitment issues, indicate a malfunctioning labour market that needs more government intervention to rectify.
“Ageing Better recognises the positive steps DWP is already taking to tackle the challenges around older people and employment in this country – including further development of mid-life MOTs. But much of the newly announced support will take place in Jobcentre Plus, and so will not help older workers who have disengaged with the labour market altogether.
“These targeted actions for 50+ jobseekers need to be backed-up with action to solve the workforce crisis the country is actually facing: with employment and training support for those who are not claiming benefits, and broader action to tackle an ageist labour market that is shooting itself in the foot.”