Over-50s in England ‘prematurely shuffled out of labour market’

A decade-long rise in the number of over-50s in employment in England has stalled, prompting concerns that older people are being “prematurely shuffled out of the labour market”.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions on the economic labour market status of individuals aged 50 and over show that a rise in employment among the group has halted in England, with the exception of the east of England, where there was a fall in the employment rate among 50- to 64-year-olds of 3.4 percentage points.

The analysis also reveals signs of a drop-off in participation as workers progress through their 50s, with about 60% who leave work not doing so by choice or retirement but because of redundancy or other negative reasons.

“Today’s data shows the growth trend in over-50s employment that had continued for a decade has stopped,” said Andy Briggs, the chair of business at Business in the Community, set up by the Prince of Wales 40 years ago to champion responsible business.

“In fact, the chilling truth is that this trend has already gone into reverse. Although the decline in employment between Q1 and Q2 of this year is slight, it is a worrying sign of the full economic impact to come for those over 50.”

Briggs said the over-50s in particular were most likely to struggle to find employment once out of work “so it was important we protect this age group, otherwise they could face a lifetime of poverty in their later years”.

He added: “This would be a travesty for their generation but also for businesses across the UK. The over-50s bring a wealth of diversity and expertise to the workforce and they should be celebrated, supported and not left to sleepwalk into their retirement.”

Emily Andrews, the senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Recent improvements in employment rates for people over 50 have been put in serious jeopardy by Covid-19, as this government data release shows.

“In the year that the state pension age reaches 66, we cannot allow people in their 50s and 60s to be prematurely shuffled out of the labour market.”

Laura Stewart-Smith, the workplace savings manager at Aviva said: “As the state pension age rises, it’s increasingly necessary for millions of workers to continue working in their midlife and beyond. But sharp falls in employment as people age could suggest many are struggling to do this.

“For individuals, this represents a loss of earning capacity that will negatively impact their income in retirement. For UK PLC, the loss of participation represents a huge drain in talent, skill and expertise.”


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