The number of economically inactive 50-64-year-olds reached 3.5 million between July and September this year, with 1.3 million admitting they are no longer actively looking for work because of sickness, an analysis of government data has concluded.
The analysis of Office for National Statistics figures by Rest Less, an online community for people in their fifties and sixties or older, also concluded there were 107,000 more economically inactive 50-64-year-olds in that period than two years ago, or pre-pandemic.
The number who were economically inactive because of long-term sickness had also increased, rising by 86,000 (or 7%), while the numbers economically inactive because of temporary sickness had shot up by more than a third (36%) and were 22,000 higher than in July-September 2019.
The analysis adds to a growing body of evidence around the impact of the pandemic on the older working-age population.
Research back in September by Surrey University, for example, concluded there had been a large rise in depression symptoms among UK over-50s, with women and those living in urban areas most affected.
Earlier this year too, the Resolution Foundation concluded the pandemic had led to the biggest annual employment fall for older workers since the 1980s.
Of the latest analysis, Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said: “Economic inactivity levels amongst those in their 50s and 60s have surged since before the pandemic in large part due to poor health.
“At a time when the economy is suffering from widespread labour shortages, of particular note to employers should be that more than 500,000 of the 3.5 million economically inactive people in this age group still said they wanted a job.
“Investment in flexible working policies and practices that offer people meaningful work on terms that work for them, is long overdue and will help support a large, talented but previously overlooked portion of society back into the workforce,” he added.