Damaging post-pandemic trend for older workers continues despite 'Great Unretirement'
Newly released statistics show more than 3.5 million people aged 50-64 are now economically inactive – almost 270,000 more than before the pandemic.
We're urging the incoming Prime Minister to set out plans for combatting the older employment crisis.
The labour market is still struggling to attract and keep older workers, newly released statistics have shown today. Economic inactivity – those neither working nor looking for work – among people aged 50-64 has again increased, rising 0.3% in the last quarter.
The latest ONS Labour Market figures bear out comments last week from Dame Sharon White, the chair of John Lewis, in highlighting the need for more decisive and targeted action to support older workers in what continues to be an exceptionally tight labour market.
Conversely, economic inactivity has fallen for those aged 65 and over, down 1.4% compared to last quarter, lending additional weight to recent speculation around a growing ‘Great Unretirement’.
We're calling on the next Prime Minister and their cabinet to find ways to encourage employers to adopt flexible working policies and remove age-bias from recruitment processes, which are key to helping over 50s remain in work and find new work when they need it. Moreover, targeted action is needed for those who have dropped out of the labour market entirely, an altogether harder to reach group.
Employers who are serious about attracting over 50s into their workforce can use our ‘Good Recruitment for Older Workers’ guide - a step-by-step manual for removing age-bias from the recruitment process.
Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“The latest labour market figures further support the ‘Great Unretirement’ theory but overall the economic outlook is mixed for older workers. While workers aged 65 and above have seen a sizeable drop in economic inactivity, the outlook has again deteriorated for workers aged between 50 and 64, compounding the damaging trend that has persisted since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“The fact that some older people are returning to employment is hardly surprising given the severity of the cost-of-living crisis which may have forced some to re-evaluate their financial position.
“There may also be a positive driver behind this trend with more employers starting to rethink their offer to older workers in terms of their recruitment policies, actively reaching out to workers in this age group, and making sure they have good flexible work policies in place. Companies such as McDonald’s, who are now actively recruiting more older workers, will feel the benefits of having a better multi-age balance within their workforce and hopefully many more employers will be motivated to take similar steps to meet their current recruitment challenges.
“It is unlikely that economic necessity alone will be sufficient to restore the number of over 50s in work to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. As John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White recently said, we need to see the government build on the steps they’ve already taken to support workers in their fifties and sixties by delivering greater flexible work options and carer’s leave to help older workers stay in employment or return to the workplace.”