Concern rises for over 50s who are furloughed

A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlights concerns about unemployment for older workers when the furlough scheme comes to an end.


Employees over the age of 65 were 40% more likely to be furloughed in late April than those in their 40s, according to a study which says there are fears that the end of the scheme could lead to rising unemployment among older workers.

The research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, funded by the Centre for Ageing Better, shows that older people found it more difficult to get back to work after spells of unemployment before the pandemic. Less than one in three workers over 50 returned to work over the course of a year, compared with about half of those unemployed in their mid 30s.

It says it is much harder for those who have been long-term unemployed to get back to work than those who have been recently unemployed, particularly for those with lower levels of education and women.

It highlights that there are a number of challenges facing older workers: less recent experience in job hunting – over two-thirds (69%) of 55-year-old workers have been with their employer for more than five years; and the fact that older workers are less likely to change occupation – only 3% of workers aged 50–69 typically change occupation over the course of a year, around half the rate of workers in their mid 30s.

Other important issues for older workers include flexible working – 16% of 50- to 69-year-olds in paid work wanted to work fewer hours before the pandemic – although around 7% wanted to work more hours, particularly those on lower earnings and in more insecure jobs. The report says that, among full-time workers aged 60 who are still in work one year later, around 10% move into part-time work. These were more likely to be people with higher levels of education.

Emily Andrews, Deputy Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “It’s vital then that in the wake of the crisis, the right support is in place to get over-50s back to work and prevent them falling into long-term unemployment – which would risk seeing many fall out of the workforce for good.

“Government must make this group a priority, providing tailored support that takes into the needs of the over-50s and the barriers they may face to finding work. In addition, government must send a strong message to employers, job coaches and employment support services that over-50s are just as entitled to support as younger workers.”


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