The recession has created a generation of over-50s who are condemned to long-term unemployment, disturbing new figures revealed last night.
The number of older workers trapped in a spiral of joblessness has soared by more than 50 per cent in a year to the highest figure in a decade.
A total of 170,000 job-seekers over 50 have been out of work for at least 12 months, according to research for the charity Age UK, which warned of a ‘devastating legacy of unemployment’.
Older workers have been the biggest victims of a recession panic that saw businesses slash costs by getting rid of long-serving and, most significantly, more expensive staff.
The 170,000 total is up by around 57,000 in a year, creating a legion of would-be workers who will struggle to find a full-time job ever again and can expect the coming decades to be characterised by a battle to cover essential bills.
The figures renewed claims of widespread prejudice against older workers, who are unfairly seen as slow and unable to keep up with new technology.
The revelations also make a mockery of Government pledges to abolish the official retirement age and allow people to work on into their 70s.
For the reality is that the jobs do not exist for older workers to take up, even if they wanted to continue working following a lifetime of toil.
Age UK’s director, Michelle Mitchell, said: ‘This is the highest level of long-term unemployment among over-50s that we have seen in a decade and brings back the spectre of the last two recessions, which left a devastating legacy of unemployment among people in later life.
‘If hundreds of thousands of 50-plus workers remain stuck in long-term unemployment, the Government’s plans to “reinvigorate” retirement and extend working lives will remain a hollow sound bite for many people.
Struggle: The unemployment rate for older workers has risen 50% in a year (file photo)
‘Before pushing people back into the recruitment arena or forcing them to work for longer, the Government must lay the foundations of a better job market for older people, with fairness and flexibility as cornerstones.’
Age UK said the figures would become worse because a predicted 750,000 older people are to be switched to the unemployment category after having their Incapacity Benefits removed under a tougher, cost-cutting regime.
Much of the focus of Government economic policy is based on a concern for thousands of young graduates who will struggle to find a job in the coming months. However, older people who want to work appear to have been sidelined.
Age UK said the number of older people out of work for more than a year is up by 52 per cent compared with this time last year.
This compares with a rise across all age groups of less than 45 per cent.
The 170,000 older workers who are long-term unemployed account for some 21.6 per cent of the total for all age groups of 787,000.
Of the job-seekers over 50 who are out of work, some 43.7 per cent have not had a job for more than a year. By contrast, only 35.1 per cent of the unemployed aged 25-49 have not had a job for more than a year, while the figure for those aged 18-24 is even lower, at 26.6 per cent.
Men make up more than three-quarters of the total of over-50s who have been out of a job for more than a year.
However, the number of older women considered long-term unemployed has still risen by a third.
The problems facing older people are expected to be confirmed today with the publication of the latest unemployment figures.
Total unemployment stood at 2.47million in the three months to May, while the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance was 1.46million.
All the figures appear to be at odds with the Coalition Government’s rosy picture of the future, where older people continue working for as long as they like.
Recently, the Employment Relations Minister Ed Davey said: ‘With more and more people wanting to extend their working lives, we should not stop them just because they have reached a particular age.
‘We want to give individuals greater choice and are moving swiftly to end discrimination of this kind.
‘Older workers bring with them a wealth of talent and experience as employees and entrepreneurs. They have a vital contribution to make to our economic recovery and long-term prosperity.’
However, employer groups have taken a different, hard-headed tack.
Manufacturers’ organisation the EEF is worried companies will be forced to retain older workers who are no longer considered competent.
It predicts a big rise in age discrimination cases at employment tribunals.
Article from The Daily Mail