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Labour Market Data Shows Need for Government Support for Older Workers in Spring Budget

A significant government intervention to support more people in their 50s and 60s back into work is desperately needed at the upcoming Spring Budget 2023. The latest labour market stats released this morning show that the number of economically inactive older workers continues to be disproportionately higher compared to other age groups.

Ageing Better is warning that the pandemic disruption to years of increased employment for older workers is almost certain to continue without substantial new and tailored support for older workers being announced at next month’s budget.

The data released this morning by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a 0.2 percentage point decrease in the economic inactivity rate (unable or choosing not to work) among 16-64s in the three months to November. The change was mirrored among those aged 50-64 where there was also a 0.2 percentage point decrease in economic inactivity.

The ONS data also reveals there was a fall of 65,000 16-64s citing retirement as a reason for inactivity, compared to the same time a year ago. However, there remains over 280,000 more workers aged 50-64 years old who are economically inactive than before the pandemic.

Older worker employment levels remain below pre-pandemic levels and the employment gap between 35-49s and 50-64s remains wider than pre-pandemic and now stands at 14.5 percentage points – 1.6 percentage points higher than at the start of the pandemic.

Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“There is again little reason for optimism for 50 plus workers in the latest labour market stats with the data again highlighting why the government is right to put increasing support for more older people back into the labour market so high up its priority list.

“It is a vital issue for individual people, for employers looking to fill skills and labour shortages and for the growth of an economy teetering on the brink of recession. The persistence of increased levels of economic inactivity for older people since the pandemic clearly indicate that the barriers to returning to the labour market later in working life remain and there are still very large numbers of people who remain locked out of it.

“There have been a considerable number of policies raised in recent weeks ranging from tax incentives to increasing GPs’ involvement in employment support to changes to benefit rules. On March 15, we need to see an ambitious package of measures that meet the scale of this vital issue for the future of our economy.
“At Ageing Better, we would like to see a national programme of 50+ employment support to help people in this group find their way back into work. Support should be made available without having to come via the Jobcentre and should be specifically targeted to this age group, tailored to individuals and actively promoted to people in their 50s and 60s.

“We also need to see a much stronger message from government to employers that removing age-related barriers to work will be vital to driving growth in the coming years. Meanwhile, individual employers should take steps to ensure that they offer a supportive and attractive work environment for the recruitment, retention and training of older workers. Any business or organisation that wants to learn more about how to benefit from building a multigenerational workforce should sign up to Ageing Better’s newly-launched Age-friendly Employer Pledge.”