‘Fifty-somethings’ face unemployment trap

15 November 2017

People in their 50s are more likely than any other age group to be unemployed and find it harder to get a new job than younger workers, according to a new study from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The organisation claims that almost a third of those aged between 50 and 64 are not in work. Of these, 27% are considered to be economically inactive, which means they are not involved in the labour market in any way. This is more than double the number of people aged between 35 and 49 (13%) that are categorised in this way.

Estimates also suggest that around one million of the 3.6 million people aged between 50 and 64 that are not in work, came out of the job market for reasons that were outside their control, such as redundancy, their own ill health or the need to care for a partner or relative.

Those that are able to work are also finding it more difficult to find new jobs than their younger rivals. The report says that 38% of unemployed over-50s have been out of work for over a year, compared to 19% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Making matters worse, the report claims that existing support is failing this demographic. Of  those referred to the government’s Work Programme, the over 50s have the lowest success rate, with only 16% finding work through the help of the scheme.

Drastic action needed to support older workers

As the state pension age rises and more people are needing to work for longer, the Centre for Better Ageing says drastic action is needed from the government to support older workers.

Jemma Mouland, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, says: “Given that we are all working for longer and our workforce is ageing, we need urgent action to break this vicious circle.

“Our research finds that changes are needed at every level. It is not a problem that national government or employment and skills services alone can fix. Poor health and caring responsibilities are some of the most common barriers experienced by older workers, so it is important that health and benefits systems are more joined up and focused on helping those over 50 stay in work, or get back into employment. Employers too need to value their older workers more, offer them greater support and flexibility and stamp out ageist employment practices.”

Don’t rely on building pensions in your 50s and 60s

The research also provides a stark warning to those in younger age groups who may be relying on using their earnings in their 50s and 60s to pump up their pension.

Graham Vidler, director of external affairs at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association says: “The Ageing Better report highlights the fact that we need to build understanding among other age groups that they cannot necessarily rely on working until state pension age – or beyond – to build their pension pots. 

“Many people see their 50s and 60s as a time to focus on building up their retirement saving; being unable to work due to poor health, caring responsibilities or lack of employment opportunities will hit their retirement plans hard.” 


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Even as far back as 2012, I struggled to find work, sending out over 200 applications before I landed a job through a friend of mine. This situation is a real problem for older people and made me very insecure in my current job, being prepared to put up with a lot just to ‘stay in a job’!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

This is absolutely correct but it's nothing new. I became unemployed at the age of 57 and nobody even wanted to interview me for vacancies. What I found particularly frustrating was the fact that public sector employers (I'm ex-civil service and local government) were by far the worst offenders. In fact data I obtained under FOIA showed that both our local authority and DWP, who were recruiting at the time, effectively weren't considering any applicants over 50 and in the lower age categories they were generally favouring female applicants under 45. What saved me was Pension Credits, which in my case kicked in just before my 61st birthday, but because of the steady increase in the qualifying age people now in their 50s can't use this option.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you for raising this issue. I have anecdotal evidence of employees being made redundant in their mid 50's from highly skilled professional jobs only to find themselves unable to get back into the job market.The pattern amongst my peer group is, they spend the first year applying on a daily basis for jobs in their area of expertise and then in desperation begin to look for 'any job' only to be rejected online. You will also find many of these workers will not appear on the government statistics because they don't sign on.It's shocking

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi I find this very much the case since i was made redundant at 55 ,despite applying for jobs i have had little success.Unable do due my previous outside job for health reasons .Don't see much prospect to be honest.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What is the point of this article? It gives no advice on what 50+ year olds can do to address the situation and age discrimination in the workplace. Waste of time.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

at the moment i have taken a tax free lump sum from my pension to tied me over untill i get my state pension, i am not taking any income from my pension at present

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What is this government Work Programme you speak of?Job Centres are nothing but welfare state denial and punishment units, totally unfit for purpose unless the title they're given is ignored and their real purpose understood.

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