Older workers are more likely to suffer long-term unemployment than younger workers, according to a new report from think tank Policy Exchange.
Its research found that once those over 50 become unemployed they face far more barriers to re-entering the workforce.
The report also claimed age discrimination is still a big problem, finding a ‘huge bias’ against older workers.
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show 428,000 over-50s out of work, and the Policy Exchange report says it expects that more than a quarter of a million of those will not work in the next year and many will never work again.
Long term unemployment is on the rise across the UK workforce, with the number of people unemployed for more than a year up by 85,000 to 886,000 and those still out of work after two years up by 29,000 to 434,000.
But the problem is more acute for the out-of-work over-50s.
According to the report, 43 per cent had been out of work for a year or more – compared to 26 per cent of 18-24 year-olds and 35 per cent of those aged 25-49 who are out of work.
It also found that of those currently unemployed, only 40 per cent of over-50s will return to work in the next 12 months, compared to over 60 per cent for those aged under 25.
With 8.3 million employed people aged 50-65, older workers make up around a quarter of the entire UK workforce. And as more and more older people decide to continue working for longer, some past retirement age, long-term unemployment for this group is becoming a bigger problem.
The future wages of older unemployed people are much more acutely affected too – the report estimates that six months of unemployment will reduce an older worker’s future wages by almost 8 per cent.
The report looked at the attitudes of employers towards age, sending applications for 250 London-based personal assistant jobs and over 900 speculative applications for bar work around England using two CVs – one from a 25-year-old, and one from a 51-year-old - which were otherwise identical apart from the date of birth.
The research found that the younger applicant received twice as many positive responses to the bar work, and was 45 per cent more likely to get a positive response to the personal assistant applications than the older worker.
The report says; ‘It is startling to see that this discrimination happens even though the UK has very clear laws designed to prevent it (primarily the Equalities Act 2010) and it suggests that there is a culture of bias against older workers.’
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK commented on the findings; ‘that more than 60 per cent of all unemployed older workers will not find work within a year is another grim indictment of the UK’s attitude to age.’
‘Despite legislation, age discrimination is still rife in the workplace. Age UK regularly hears of older people – many of them very experienced and withimpressive track records – who believe they are failing to get jobs simply because of their date of birth.’
Since the youth unemployment has become such a huge issue, the government has been focusing its efforts on getting the younger generations back into work, but the report challenges the assumption that older workers are less affected by losing their jobs.
It explains; ‘For the economy, at a time when increasing productivity is vital for boosting economic growth, the loss of valuable experience and expertise that our older workforce possesses could be severely damaging.
‘The human costs are equally as large: savings horizons could be severely damaged and standards of living during retirement could fall. For these reasons, it is clear that a failure to support those older workers who are looking for work now will present a large problem for the future.’
Article from This Is Money