What will COVID-19 mean for older workers?

What will the impact of COVID-19 be on older workers? It’s likely we will have to work longer and pay much more attention to keeping our skills up to date.

Older couple smile looking at a tablet over lunch


COVID-19 will mean people have to work for longer and that older workers need to ensure their skills are up to date, according to a leading expert in longevity.

In a webinar last week, Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at London Business School, said the COVID-19 pandemic had had huge negatives for older people, including the high number who had died or fallen ill, the likelihood of cuts in government policy as a result of the looming recession and of the need for people to work longer as their savings and pensions are affected as well as the possibility of greater employment problems due to rising unemployment and age discrimination in the hiring process. The latter are likely to mean older people will have to rely more on insecure, gig jobs and self employment.

However, despite the negatives, Professor Scott said there were some positives that had come from the pandemic. It had, for instance, highlighted that as a society we value health over wealth and that we need to focus more on ageing well and health prevention, focusing on keeping healthy rather than just tackling illness. This has been backed by tech advances which have been boosted during the pandemic, such as artificial intelligence-driven diagnostics, he said.

Professor Scott  said the COVID-19 pandemic had also been a catalyst for debates around whether concepts of old age need to change given people are living longer and around the diversity in how people age Рthe fact that some older people are fitter than those much younger than them while others have severe underlying health issues, or that some people want to work past retirement while not everyone can work beyond 70.

He said: “Simple age-based policies cause problems.”

Other more positive outcomes of the pandemic included the likelihood that universities will look to offer more online adult education in the search for new markets and amid falling revenue. As older workers need to keep their skills up to date, lifelong learning will be a bigger issue, said Professor Scott.


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