Ageing experts warn that the coronavirus crisis may lead to a surge in long term unemployment among the over 50s.
A report from Ageing Better and the Learning and Work Institute has revealed that the number of older workers on unemployment-related benefits has nearly doubled as a result of the pandemic, increasing from 304,000 in March to 588,000 in June.
Experts are also predicting a ‘second wave’ of job losses for older workers as the furlough scheme comes to an end in October.
The research revealed that one in four older workers, 2.5 million in total, have been furloughed, and hundreds of thousands of these workers may be unable to return to their previous jobs as some sectors struggle to recover.
The report also found that older workers who lose their jobs are far more likely to slip into long-term worklessness. One in three (35%) over 50s who lose their job return to work quickly, compared to two in three (63%) workers aged 25-34.
Over 50s who are unemployed are twice as likely to have been out of work for more than a year than those aged 18 to 24.
While the government’s immediate employment response to the crisis has focused on younger workers, the report is calling for urgent action to prevent a long-term unemployment crisis among the over 50s.
Experts are calling for back to work support which meets the needs of the over 50s including effective incentives and robust oversight to prevent older claimants being left behind.
As well as support for older workers to retrain, including an entitlement to funding for a qualification up to level three, the equivalent of A Levels, for all older workers. And further work to understand the financial impact of the crisis on older workers.
Anna Dixon, chief executive, Centre for Ageing Better, said: ‘As this report shows, older workers have been hit hard by the crisis, and it’s crucial that they are not forgotten in the recovery efforts.
‘Without action, we could see many in their 50s and 60s falling out of the workforce years before their state pension age and struggling to get by until they are able to draw their pension.
‘We know that a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work when it comes to helping over 50s back to work. Instead, we need to see targeted support, and a strong message from the government that these workers are just as entitled to support as younger age groups.’
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