Age discrimination costs £31bn a year

Age discrimination at work could be costing the UK
economy up to £31bn each year, an influential government watchdog has warned.


The National Audit Office (NAO) said a drop in the number of
those working in later life means lower output, higher benefit payments, and
fewer tax revenues, at a cost of between £19bn and £31bn.


According to the NAO, less than 70 per cent of over-50s –
the Government’s definition of ‘older people’ – are in work, compared with more
than 75 per cent of those under 50 years of age.


It found that of the 2.7 million over-50s who are out of
work, a million want to find a job but are facing barriers such as age
discrimination, outdated skills, lack of confidence and health problems.


John Bourn, head of the NAO, called on the Government to do
more to help older workers find employment.


"Good progress has been made in increasing the
employment rate for older people, [but] there is scope for government agencies
to focus their efforts on improving the employability of older people, and for
targeting disadvantaged groups," he said.


"Success will bring benefits not only for the
individual, but also for business, the taxpayer, and the economy at


The Department of Work and Pensions said that measures are
in place to improve the position of older workers, but it admitted that more
could be done to tackle the problems.


The NAO report came in the week after findings from an
exclusive Personnel Today study, by researchers BRMB, revealed that many older
workers feel undervalued by their employer, despite their hard work and
loyalty. is
launching an investigation into age at work. To have your say, go to


Ageism and the law


– Legislation outlawing ageism in the workplace will come
into force by the end of 2006


– Awareness among UK
organisations is “shockingly poor”, according to The Employers Forum on Age


– To comply with legislation, employers will have to review
all employment practices, including recruitment, promotion, retirement, and
redundancy, as well as systems for unfair dismissal and appraisals


By Daniel Thomas


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