Older workers two and a half times more likely to suffer long-term unemployment

New analysis of ONS figures show how much older workers are disproportionately likely to be unemployed for longer than their younger counterparts.

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Unemployed over 50s are two and a half times as likely as younger age groups to be out of work for at least two years, according to new analysis.

The analysis of Office for National Statistics unemployment figures from December was conducted by over 50s organisation Rest Less. They show that, while unemployment and short-term unemployment is lower among over 50s compared with other age groups,  unemployed over 50s in the UK [407,000 people] make up one in four (24%) of all unemployed people and 30% have been out of work for at least a year. Twenty per cent have been out of work for at least two years.

This compares with 20% and 8% of under 50s respectively and means the over 50s are two and a half times as likely as under 50s to be unemployed for at least two years and one and a half times as likely to be unemployed for at least one year

The figures also show that unemployment levels amongst the over 50s in August to October had increased by 34% since the beginning of the year (January to March) – the biggest percentage increase of all age groups.  The overall increase in unemployment levels was 24%.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said: “Our analysis clearly shows that older people out of work are more prone to long-term unemployment than other age groups in the same position.  With the state pension age having risen to 66, we are particularly worried that this drift from short to long-term unemployment ultimately risks a lost generation of unemployed over 50s forced into an early retirement they neither want nor can afford.

“Too often, highly skilled workers in their 50s and 60s suffer from age discrimination in the recruitment process, often being told they are ‘over qualified’ – a concept that simply doesn’t make sense.

“More tailored support and comprehensive retraining for the over 50s in the early stages of unemployment is required in order to reduce the disproportionate number of older workers drifting  into long term unemployment – where confidence can be badly hit and it can become even harder to get back into the workforce.”

He added: “Prior to the pandemic, 80% of employment growth in the UK came from workers over the age of 50. If we want to bounce back from this devastating recession as quickly as can be, we need employment and re-employment policies that work to bring all age groups back into the workplace and harness the often overlooked talent of the over 50s.”



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