Women over 65 face rising unemployment

New ONS statistics show the rising pension age for women has brought an increase in unemployment for women over 65.

Older lady sits in armchair looking pensive


Campaigners are worried about the growing number of women over 65 who face unemployment after the state pension age rose to 66 last year.

The number of women aged 65 and over who are unemployed has increased from 7,200 to 21,000 in the year from March-May 2020 to March-May 2021, says Rest Less. This is in large part due to changes in the state pension age.

In 2018, the age at which women qualified for the state pension rose from 60 to 65. In October 2020, the pension age for both men and women reached 66. Some women approaching retirement have been particularly badly affected and argue that they were not properly informed or given time to adjust. These include the WASPI women who have faced financial problems as a result and, in some cases, have struggled to stay in work.

The figures on the rise in unemployment for women over 65 are based on the latest Office for National Statistics data which show that the unemployment rate for women aged 65 and over currently stands at 3.8%, compared to a rate of 2.3% amongst men aged 65 and older.

Economic activity levels  (the number of people actively working or looking for work) amongst women aged over 65 are also on the decline following the pandemic, reversing a long-term trend upwards.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, says: “In the last recession of 2009, women could retire at 60 and receive the state pension; today it is 66.   The sharp rise in unemployment levels amongst women aged 65 or over is only set to get worse over the summer with the winding down of the furlough scheme (11% of all working women aged 65 and older are still on furlough). There are far too many women in their 60s stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can’t find a job due to rampant age discrimination, but they can’t yet claim their state pension either – which puts them in an extremely vulnerable financial position as they approach retirement.”

He said the fall in employment was in part due to women’s greater likelihood to take on caring responsibilities – a big issue during the pandemic.

Lewis added: “If the Government expects us to work until we are 66, rising to 67 by 2028, then they need to invest in tailored retraining and employment support programmes for older workers that are more targeted and impactful than the existing generic initiatives in place. Against the backdrop of widespread age discrimination and a rising state pension age, the Government also needs to look holistically at the range of financial support available for unemployed workers in their 60s.”

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