The number of older workers trapped in long-term unemployment has hit a ten-year high after soaring by over 50 per cent in the last year alone, and planned changes to working age benefits could drive this figure even higher, warns Age UK.
Ahead of today’s publication of the latest employment figures, Age UK found that two in five 50-plus unemployed workers – a total of 170,000 people – have been out of work for over a year. The figure went up by half (52%) over the last year and almost a fifth (18.6%) over the last quarter – the highest percentage increase among all age groups – reaching the highest level since June 1997 when long-term unemployment among 50-plus workers was still high in the wake of the early-90s recession (Fig 1). The proportion of 50-plus in long-term unemployment has also risen sharply from 36.2 to 43.7 per cent over the last quarter, setting at its highest level since 2000 (Fig 2).
While male workers are still the worst affected – making up over three quarter of the 50-plus out of work for more than a year – women aged 50 and over have seen the number of long-term unemployed soar by a third over the last quarter, the highest percentage increase among all age groups.
With the number of older workers looking for a job set to rise by over three quarters of a million as a result of moving people off Incapacity Benefits, Age UK warns that the situation is bound to get worse unless older workers are offered tailored back-to-work support.2
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director, said:
“This is the highest level of long-term unemployment among over 50s that we have seen in a decade and brings back the spectre of the last two recessions which left a devastating legacy of unemployment among people in later life.
“If hundreds of thousands of 50-plus workers remain stuck in long-term unemployment, the Government’s plans to ‘reinvigorate’ retirement and extend working lives will remain a hollow sound bite for many people.
“Before pushing people back into the recruitment arena or forcing them to work for longer, the Government must lay the foundations of a better job market for older people, with fairness and flexibility as cornerstones.”
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