Illness and dwindling part-time jobs drive down work for over-50s

The number of people aged 50 and over leaving the labor force has increased since the pandemic, reversing an upward trend in the employment rate seen since the 1990s.

A new analysis of Labor Force Survey data by the Department for Work and Pensions has found that over the past year the employment rate of people aged 50 to 64 has fallen by 0 .3 percentage point, going from 71% in 2021 to 70.7% in 2022, with many departures. work due to illness, injury or disability.

This has seen the employment rate gap between 35-49 and 50-64 year olds widen from 14.1 percentage points in 2021 to 15.1 points this year.

The UK had seen the number of 50-64 year olds in work rise steadily from the mid-1990s to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 1995, only 57.2% of people in this age group were working.

However, the DWP said part-time employment rates have fallen, leading to a decline in the overall employment rate for people in this age group. Compared to 2017, the proportions of older workers working part-time have decreased for 50-54 year olds and 55-59 year olds.

According to the report, illness, disability and injury remain the main reasons why people aged 50 to 64 become economically inactive. Two in five people, or 1.4 million people in this age group, cite their health condition or disability as the reason they are not looking for work – this figure has increased by 1.3 percentage points in course of the past year.

A third say they have retired – a reduction of 1.1 percentage points since 2021.

From April to June 2022, 3.6 million people aged 50 to 64 were economically inactive, including 1.5 million men and 2.1 million women.

However, there are still almost 760,000 people in this age group who are not currently working but looking for work, although this figure has fallen from 810,000 in 2021.

The report also finds that:

  • The employment rate of people aged 50 to 64 varies by region. Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of work at 63.5%, compared to 71.2% in England
  • The unemployment rate for people aged 50-64 follows a similar overall trend as for people aged 35-49, with both rates following very closely since 2014
  • In 2022, the average exit age of men from the labor market is 65.4 years old, compared to 65.1 years old in 2021 and 65.3 years old in 2020. The average woman in 2022 retires at 64.3 years old – the same age observed in 2020 – compared to 64 years in 2021 .

It has been suggested that the current recruitment market is more challenging for older workers than conditions seen before the pandemic, despite the increased adoption of remote and flexible working practices desired by many over 50s.

Debbie Denyar, executive coach at Coach the Difference, said recruitment technology can be a barrier to many older workers being screened for jobs.

“Suddenly they find themselves in a very different job market where their resume has to go through an applicant tracking system and interviews are virtual. Many haven’t reviewed their resume or interviewed in years. At that Added to this are feelings of shock, loss of identity, status and trust,” she said.

Ageism is currently rampant in the recruitment market. I constantly hear about fantastic candidates being passed over for job opportunities in favor of their younger counterparts. –Julia Kermode, IWork

“Unfortunately, ageism makes research more difficult. Organizations seek candidates who are tech-savvy and adaptable, helping them respond quickly to the rapidly changing economic landscape. Candidates over 50 must be able to demonstrate that they bring with them experience of change and organizations must recognize the value this brings.

Julia Kermode, founder of freelance and contract work consultancy IWork, said: “Ageism is rampant in the recruitment market right now. I constantly hear about fantastic candidates being passed over for job opportunities in favor of their younger counterparts. No one admits their biases, but they’re definitely there.

“They have already been hit very hard by the pandemic, and many have been forced to retire earlier than expected, which will no longer be affordable with the rising cost of living. So expect more over-50s to enter the workforce, and even more prejudice as they continue to be overlooked. We have to break this taboo and we have to break it now.

However, recruitment consultancy CKB Recruitment, based in Gloucester, has seen an improvement in opportunities for the over-50s due to the more widespread availability of remote working.

MD Kieran Boyle said: “We have certainly noticed that employers are keen to seek out more experienced candidates, with remote and hybrid working most certainly testing the level of confidence some employers have in young candidates working from home. Our clients identify older talent as a safer option, preferring technology training to work remotely rather than training entry-level candidates in the office.

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