Labour market figures released this week show 27.6% 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 employment rate for people aged 35-49 has recovered and now exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with 85.8% of people in this age group in employment again. Yet, the same has not been true for the 50-64 group (70.5%), with the employment gap between the two age groups now rising to over 15 percentage points.
The number of economically inactive workers in the 50-64 group has grown by more than 100,000 in the last quarter – an indicator that the trend shows no sign of abating any time soon without greater action by employers and government. Employment rates among people in the 65+ age group have also fallen over the last quarter – suggesting that the hoped-for ‘great unretirement’ is not underway.
Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“It is incredibly worrying that the trend for more and more older workers to leave the labour market continues.
“The legacy of the pandemic impact is still very much evident and it is clear that it will require concerted action from both government and employers to turn this around to the dominant trend of more older workers in employment prior to the spring of 2020.
“We welcome the fact that DWP is already attempting to tackle the challenges around older people and employment in this country and the indications that support might be expanded upon. But this extra support will focus on those seeking support via Jobcentre Plus, so will not benefit those older workers who have disengaged with the labour market altogether.
“Older workers can have an invaluable role to play in boosting national growth and productivity if given the opportunities to showcase the benefits they can bring businesses. Unfortunately, all too often they are frozen out by bias in the recruitment process or not given the opportunities to fulfil their potential because of a lack of training and progression.
“Businesses benefit from having a multigenerational workforce and in this challenging recruitment climate, finding the hires needed in the underused pool of older workers makes perfect sense. We would like to see more companies to commit themselves to take meaningful and long-term action around the recruitment, retention and support of workers in their 50s and 60s.”