Call for concerted effort to support older people at work

The Centre for Ageing Better is calling on politicians to sign up to a commitment to support older people at work and to reverse the post-pandemic challenges they have faced.

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The next government could boost the economy by as much as £9 billion a year by giving older workers an equal opportunity in the labour market, according to new analysis by the Centre for Ageing Better.

It says that, by closing the employment rate gap between older and younger workers, the Treasury would also net an additional £1.6 billion a year in income tax and national insurance contributions.

The Centre for Ageing Better is calling for all political parties to commit to raising the employment rate of 50-64 workers to 75% by 2030 by signing up to its new 50+ Employment Commitment. It says this would equate to around half a million more 50-64-year-olds in work.

The commitment has been endorsed by organisations such as Demos, Age UK, the Institute for Employment Studies, Phoenix Insights and the Learning and Work Institute. They say older workers are currently being let down by ageism and age bias in the labour market, a lack of flexible working and health support, limited opportunities for skills development and underperforming employment support which is preventing many from realising their full potential.

Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “A 75% employment rate target is attainable based on pre-pandemic trends but will require a sustained government focus on the issue. By 2030, there will be an additional 1.2 million people aged 50-64 in the UK, but only another 500,000 people aged 15-29. The future of UK growth and productivity over the next Parliament depends on mobilising the 50+ workforce.

“This is not about special treatment for older workers. This is about fairness and ensuring equal opportunity for older workers seeking employment or wanting to stay in work that will benefit employers, the economy and the whole country.”

The 50+ Employment Commitment calls upon political parties to commit to:

    • Raising the performance of employment support for people aged 50-66 to the level of people in their 40s.
    • Increasing investment in employment support for people in their 50s and 60s, making targeted support available nationwide to all people out of work over 50.​
    • Creating new opportunities for people to upskill, reskill and develop in their 50s and 60s – including through expanding mid-life review pilots.
    • Conducting a review of the Department for Work and Pensions’ employment and benefits approach to all people in their 60s before the State Pension Age increases to 67 from 2026.
    • Consulting on the introduction of paid carer’s leave and strengthening recent legislation on unpaid carer’s leave and introducing a default right to flexible work from day one by the end of next Parliament.
    • Delivering a government-backed awareness and information campaign, directed at employers of all sizes, to champion the value of good work for people in their 50s and 60s.

The Commitment outlines how people in their 50s and 60s are nearly twice as likely as younger adults to become long-term unemployed once out of work and says just one in 10 people aged 50-64 who are out of work engage in back-to-work support and, when they do, their outcomes are significantly worse than the all-age average. It also states that almost one in three workers aged 50-70 who left their position during the pandemic report experiencing age discrimination when looking for work and says there are over half a million people aged 50-65 who would like to be in work but are not.Tony Wilson, Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, said:“Three quarters of all employment growth this century has been among people aged over 50 but in the last four years this has ground to a halt. For the first time in three decades, employment among older people has stopped growing.

“Addressing this needs to be a top priority for whoever wins this general election, as helping more older people into work and to stay in work is going to be key to supporting a stronger economy, better public finances and fewer people in poverty.”

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