17 September 2014
Over 50s are being left behind as policymakers focus on the young
Older people also need special help to get back to work and overcome ageism
Subsidised apprenticeships and retraining schemes can help
Sharp fall in unemployment: The latest unemployment figures, just released by the ONS, show a continuing picture of rapidly falling unemployment. This is great news, however the statistics also confirm that the over 50s continue to lag behind.
Ageism in the workplace continues: It seems Britain’s older workers are more likely to struggle to find new jobs once they become unemployed. Improvements for 18-24 year olds have been strongest. This confirms anecdotal evidence of ongoing age discrimination among employers and recruitment firms, and suggests that the specific focus on younger people by policymakers has had positive effects.
Measures to help the young have really helped: Indeed, the reduction in unemployment among the 18-24 year olds has been spectacular. The total unemployment for people age 18-24 was 23.3% lower in the three months to July 2014, than for the same period last year. This compares with a nation-wide fall in unemployment of 18.8% and an improvement of 15% among those age 50+.
Fall in total UK unemployment May – July 2014 compared with May – July 2013:
Total 18.8% lower
Age 50+ 15.0% lower
Age 18-24 23.3% lower
Long-term unemployment is a particular problem: The situation for long-term unemployed older people is even greater. Nationally, there has been a 15% fall in numbers unemployed for more than two years, and a stunning 27.1% fall for 18-24 year olds, but for the over 50s there was only a 3.7% fall – and in fact the numbers unemployed for over 2 years in the three months May to July 2014 were 4.7% higher than in the previous three months.
Long-term unemployment May – July 2014 compared with year ago
Change in numbers unemployed for over 2 years
Total 15.0% lower
Age 50+ 3.7% lower (4.7% higher than previous three months)
Age 18-24 27.1% lower
For the short-term unemployment there is a similar picture. Across the country, the numbers unemployed for less than 6 months were 14.3% lower than the same time last year, but among over 50s there was only a 6.3% improvement. By contrast, the numbers of younger people unemployed for less than 6 months fell by 18.5%.
Short-term unemployment May – July 2014 compared with year ago
Change in numbers unemployed for less than 6 months
Total: 14.3% lower
Age 50+ 6.3% lower (unchanged from previous three months)
Age 18-24 18.5% lower
Special help for over 50s can boost long-term growth: The Government is certainly having success in reducing UK unemployment, particularly among the young, which is clearly of huge importance. However, I would urge policymakers to intervene with specific measures for the older unemployment as well. There is increasing evidence that the over 50s are lagging behind in the labour market. Many are languishing without employment because of ageism among employers and recruitment agencies. As the numbers of older workers is rising rapidly, special measures to ensure they are not forced to finish work earlier than they need to can also boost long-term growth.
Subsidised apprenticeships and retraining courses: The more older people who stop working before they need and want to, the worse the economic outlook for all of us will be. Many over 50s end up giving up and retire early, but this means they will never be able to improve their income and spending power. Not only do they lose out, so do their families and society. I would urge the Government to consider incentives for over 50s to help them obtain apprenticeship placements, retraining and updated skills. This can give them the new lease of life they need to rejoin the world of work.