Men aged 50+ who have lost their jobs in the recession are at serious risk of being shut out of the labour market forever unless the government takes urgent action in next week’s Pre-Budget Report, a coalition of charities and employment organisations has warned.
An analysis of official labour market figures covering the period July-September 2009 reveals that older workers are finding it harder than any other age group to get back into employment after being made redundant. Fewer than one in five (18.7%) of over-50s find employment within three months, compared to more than 40% of 25- to 34-year-olds.
Long-term unemployment (six to 12 months) among the 50+ age group has also more than doubled over the past year. The coalition is concerned that this will condemn many people to an uncomfortable retirement and force them to rely on state benefits.
In contrast, employment rates among women in the 50+ age group have increased, possibly due to their ability to take up part-time jobs or their willingness to take lower-paid roles in the service sector.
Age Concern and Help the Aged, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) are calling on chancellor Alistair Darling to use the Pre-Budget Report to provide a new package of support to get people aged 50+ back into work. This package should include:
Intensive support for unemployed people aged 50+ within three to four months of losing their jobs to prevent them from becoming detached from the labour market.
The job guarantee for unemployed people aged 18-24 once they have been in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance for nine months should be extended to claimants aged 50+.
Jobcentre Plus services should be ‘age proofed’ to ensure high quality back-to-work support for the over-50s. Personal advisers and others providing services need to have the awareness, skills and confidence to provide personalised support suited to the needs of older clients.
Existing employer initiatives, such as Jobs Pledge and Train to Gain should include a commitment to meet ‘Age Positive’ standards.
The coalition has also called for the immediate abolition of the default retirement age which, they claim, is being used by many employers to force willing and able workers to retire before they are ready.
TAEN chief Chris Ball said: “We should learn from the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s which resulted in nearly four out of 10 men aged between 50 and state pension age being out of work. A large proportion of those affected never worked again, and were parked on incapacity benefits until they reached state pension age. It is possible that history will be repeated with growing numbers of older workers unable to get back into work. This must not be allowed to happen.”