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50+ unlikely to get job again: Study

A new report published today by Business in the Community suggests that people over the age of 50 have a higher chance of becoming permanently jobless compared to younger people.

The report ‘The Missing Million: Pathways back into employment’ follows previous research carried out by Business in the Community and research partner the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), which set out the challenges faced by the million workers over the age of 50 pushed out of work for reasons beyond their control.

The new research suggests that people aged between 50 and 64 who experienced a change in their economic status, just under a third (30.5%) successfully found work. In comparison, a larger number of people aged 50-64 became permanently jobless, either through inactivity* or unemployment, than were able to return to work.

The report goes onto suggest that the over 50s demonstrated a substantial desire to work, similar to younger people but faced significant barriers.

Age discrimination is cited as one such barrier with the research highlighting that people aged 50-69 who report having experienced some kind of discrimination, felt their age was the main reason for being treated differently by employers.

For those older people who do manage to find employment, just over half of those aged 50-64 ended up working for an employer, compared to more than two-thirds of those in younger age groups.

Other key findings include:

Nearly 1 in 3 (33%) of people aged 50-64 started their own business, compared to a quarter of those aged 30-49 and only 8.6% of those aged 16-29.
Among those 50-64 year olds who moved out of unemployment, 16.3% found a place on a Government employment and training scheme, in contrast to 11.1% of those 16-24 and 12.7% of those aged 30-49.
Doing unpaid work for a family business is reported at higher levels among the age group 50-64 compared to younger people, with around 10.6% of transitions ending there.
Older people who make it back to work also appear to do so through their own efforts, using personal resources and networks rather than official support
Health and illness concerns – both for individuals and for dependents who may require their care – can restrict the opportunities that older people can pursue in their job search.
Other disincentives to return to work may also exist when people receive income from benefits or pensions and a return to work would negatively impact their finances.
Business in the Community’s Rachael Saunders, Director of Age and Intergenerational Workplaces, said: “This latest research clearly shows that if you’re over 50 and out of work, you are a lot less likely to get back into employment, especially compared to your younger peers. This is a sorry state of affairs. Not only are hard-working and highly skilled over 50s workers unfairly punished but we as a country also lose out.

“Urgent action is needed if we are going to reverse this situation and we will continue to work with Government, business and local communities to keep people over 50 in work, and improve the prospects of marginalised and under-used over 50s workers.”

Baroness Greengross, ILC-UK Chief Executive said: “This report highlights the ongoing challenge that older people face in their efforts to continue working in later life. It dispels a number of myths around older people in the workplace and suggests that persistent stereotypes based on age serve as a significant barrier to employment for the over 50s.

“We all have an important role to play – and indeed an imperative to do so for the future sustainability of our economy and society at large – in changing such attitudes to maximise the potential of older workers.”

Dr. Ros Altmann CBE, the Government’s new Older Workers’ Business Champion, said: “Businesses across the country are waking up to the potential of older workers – as the over 50s become the fast-growing section of society. But there is more to do to end the outdated and inaccurate perceptions that can hold them back.

“Millions of over 50s are now looking to retire later – as working later in life becomes the new norm – so it is essential to ensure their skills are kept up to date, and there is support for them to even take on a new career to make the most of their energy and experience.”

The third report in the ‘Missing Million’ campaign, to be launched as a part of Responsible Business Week in April 2015, will set out detailed recommendations for business and for government.

All three reports will feed into a new strand of work by Business in the Community, developing workplace solutions to extend working lives and make the most of intergenerational workplaces.

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