TUC report claims one million over 50s are jobless through employers’ ageist attitudes

More than one million 50- to 65-year-olds who want to work can’t get a job because employers won’t recruit older workers, according to a TUC report published today.

The TUC also accuses businesses of failing to retain the older workers they already employ by investing in training or making minor adjustments for disabilities.

The report, Ready Willing and Able, claims that of the 2.6 million 50- to 65-year-olds who are currently unemployed or economically inactive, more than one-third want a job, with 250,000 actively looking and 750,000 saying they would like to work.

It also found that despite an average retirement age of 63, only 12% of non-working 50- to 65-year-olds fit the stereotype of ‘early retired, affluent professionals’ and only one-third retire early ‘fully voluntarily’.

The TUC warned of a demographic time-bomb if employers do not do more to employ older workers.

It is estimated that over the next 10 years the number of people under 50 will fall by 2% while the number aged 50-69 will rise by 17%.

The TUC estimates that without an extra one million people in work by 2015, workers will face higher taxes, later retirement or old-age poverty.

The report warns that government plans to tackle the problem by raising the state pension age will simply push more older people on to benefits, unless employers stop discriminating against older workers and adopt ‘age management’ strategies to retain the over-50s.

TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady, said companies needed to develop ‘age management’ policies to capitalise on experienced staff by offering retraining and flexible working.

“Most baby boomers are not retiring early to cruise around the world or go bungee jumping,” she said. “They have been dumped out of work and on to the scrapheap and are scraping by on benefits or small work pensions.”

However, Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the CBI, said employers were well aware of the benefits older people had to offer.

“Evidence suggests that older people do find it hard to find a job and this is mainly because they have lower skills levels, particularly in regard to the literacy and numeracy requirements of the modern workplace,” she said.

“However employers are very aware of the benefits and advantages which older people offer – especially their attitude to work and their customer service skills – so where possible they will do all they can to hire and retain them.

“Unfair discrimination based on age is clearly unacceptable – employers recognise that they should only discriminate on ability,” Anderson added.

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