Hundreds of thousands of older workers remain frozen out of the labour market
The latest ONS data shows that over 260,000 more workers aged 50-64 years old are economically inactive than before the pandemic.
2022 ends as it begins – with the negative effects of the pandemic persisting for older workers and now with the added uncertainty of a recession taking hold.
The latest ONS stats show a small uptick in the employment rate of older workers – but it remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Employment among 50-64s is at 71.1%, compared with 72.4% on the eve of lockdown.
Ageing Better is concerned that the UK's labour and skills shortages will only get worse in 2023 if employers don't manage to harness the older workforce. This year saw the employment rate for most workers finally recovering to pre-pandemic levels or above.
But there has been no such revival for older workers, which means the employment gap between 35-49s and 50-64s is now at 15 percentage points – 2 percentage points higher than pre-pandemic.
To ensure that this trend does not continue into 2023 and potentially intensify amidst a recession, we're calling for more action from employers and government to ensure that work remains an attractive option for people aged 50+.
We have recently launched the Age-friendly Employer Pledge for employers across the country who recognise the importance and value of older workers, are committed to improving work for people in their 50s and 60s (and beyond) and are prepared to take action to help them flourish in a multigenerational workforce.
Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“The figures released today show 27% of all people aged 50-64 are ‘economically inactive’ – neither in work nor looking for work – up from 25.4% before the start of the pandemic.
“The uptick in employment among 50-64s in the last quarter may signal the anticipated return of some older workers to the workplace, as the cost-of-living crisis bites. But this is far from a widespread phenomenon – as the barriers to re-entry remain high.
“The trends of 2022 show that, despite many prior years of increasing older worker employment, our labour market is just not set up for a world where more of us will be working for longer. People in their 50s and 60s have counted themselves out of the workplace in droves – and are experiencing age discrimination when they try to get back in.
“We've seen some good developments towards the end of the year: new legislation for flexible work and carer's leave are big steps in the right direction. And the recently-announced review into economic inactivity shows the government understands that more needs to be done.
“So, in 2023, we want to see a sustained response to 50+ worklessness. That means ongoing scrutiny of data for this group, in the same way that the numbers are rightly closely scrutinised with young people. We need open access to local support for people who want help getting back to work, outside of the Jobcentre and benefits regime. And as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and the recession begins to bite, we need government to send a clear message to employers that older workers are a key part of the workforce and will bring major benefits to British business.
“We want 2023 to be the year that every older worker that wants to work, has the opportunity to show their value and without workplace prejudice or inflexibility standing in their way. To help that dream become a reality, the Centre for Ageing Better is hoping many more employers sign our newly-launched Age-friendly Employer Pledge and commit to taking action to improve their recruitment, retention and development of workers over 50 for the betterment of their entire organisation.”