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Fears are growing for the more than half a million older workers who are on furlough when the scheme ends on Thursday, says Rest Less.
More than half a million over 50s could enter a precarious jobs market for older workers when the furlough scheme ends this month, according to analysis by Rest Less, an online community for older people.
Based on Government figures, it says 543,700 over 50s were still on furlough at the end of July – the most up-to-date figures – of which 454,900 were aged 50-64 and 88,800 were aged 65+. The proportion of older workers among those on furlough has risen steadily over the last year. At the end of July, people over 50 accounted for 35% of the total number of people still on furlough, compared to 27% in January.
While some of the 543,700 will return to their jobs, many will not and there are fears that it will be harder for them to find new jobs due to ageism within the recruitment process.
Rest Less adds that 516,237 over 50s have left the workforce in the past two years and are now classed as economically inactive. 207,012 are aged 50-64 [a 6.4% increase on two years ago] and 309,225 are aged 65+. While employment levels for 50 to 64 year olds are close to their pre-pandemic levels, it says there are 354,566 over 50s who are currently unemployed, of which 321,965 are aged 50-64 – a 25% increase from two years ago.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said: “The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the job prospects of many in their 50s and 60s, but we fear the full impact is yet to be felt. With more than half a million people aged 50 or older still on furlough at the last count, we may well see hundreds of thousands of hard working, experienced older workers enter redundancy and ultimately find themselves looking for a new job in the run-up to Christmas.
“The jobs market is polarised at the moment. On the one hand, we have record job vacancies and companies struggling to hire talent in key areas – for example, HGV drivers and healthcare. On the other side, unemployment levels across many age groups have yet to recover and we are seeing huge falls in economic activity amongst midlifers. Much more can be done to help bridge these gaps through intensive retraining and accelerated assessment programmes.”
He added: “The loss of any large proportion of society from the workforce is cause for significant concern, and risks holding back the economic recovery for all. Whilst for some workers aged 50 and older, economic inactivity is a choice and a planned exit from the workforce, many others are finding themselves faced with an early retirement they are neither financially or emotionally prepared for.”
Meanwhile, an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, published on Thursday, noted that older workers faced more difficulty finding work. They highlighted in particular “worrying” trends for workers aged over 60, saying that, among those made redundant during the pandemic, 58% were not in, or searching for, work six months later, compared with just 38% among those made redundant in the three years prior to the pandemic. “There is a risk that older workers made unemployed after furlough may drop out of the labour force altogether,” said the IFS.
Reporting that younger workers, while initially badly affected by the pandemic, were now back to pre-pandemic employment levels, the report stated: “Given this recovery, coupled with the extensive pipeline of Kickstart jobs for young people, government resources and attention might be better focused on supporting other groups, such as older workers and those living in London.”