Campaigners are warning that the Government’s focus on youth unemployment ignores the threat to older workers from unemployment and early retirement.
Campaigners have welcomed the Chancellor’s summer statement and investment in a temporary youth job creation scheme, but say over 50s are also badly hit and face early retirement and potential poverty.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced a kickstart scheme for young people which will pay young people’s wages for up to six months from September, amounting to a grant worth around £6,500 per young person.
This was alongside other measures to stave off mass unemployment and help people back to work, including a £1,000 retention bonus for furloughed workers, a VAT cut for the hospitality industry and investment in energy efficiency measures.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, an organisation for older workers, welcomed the investment in youth employment, but said the current policy “will significantly distort the labour market, reduce permanent job creation and make it much harder for other under-represented groups like the over 50s to find work”.
He pointed to pre-pandemic research showing workers aged over 50 were more likely to be made redundant, to be in long term unemployment, to have less access to workplace training and to face heightened age discrimination in the recruitment process post-pandemic.
He stated: “Following today’s announcement, with more over 50s claiming Universal Credit than those under 24, and redundancies surging, why would any company create a permanent role and hire a 61 year old who has just been made redundant, when they could hire a 23 year old for free on a temporary six month basis?
“With 660,000 over 50s claiming Universal Credit in May (up from 304,000 in March) and the state pension age increasing to 66 this year – given the known challenges facing the over 50s in the recruitment process, we expect hundreds of thousands of over 50s to be forced into an early retirement they cannot afford, living off Universal Credit until they reach the state pension age – which could be as long as 10 -15 years.”