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Expert comment, unemployment rises in over-50s

Professor Chris Warhurst, Director of the Warwick Institute for Employment Research, comments:

"The Resolution Foundation has revealed a U-shaped crisis with unemployment rising faster for younger and older workers. Even before the Covid crisis there were signs that employment for slowing down for some in these groups.

"For older workers there is now a need to work longer due to the rise in the age of retirement. Staying employable can be more difficult for these workers because they typically receive less training than prime age workers and so have less opportunity to refresh their skills when in work.

"With the effects of the pandemic now hitting the labour marker, a number of factors now impede the employment of older workers:-

  1. Employer demand generally is lower than before the crisis and employers can perceive older workers to be less flexible and more expensive.
  2. These negative perceptions affect employers’ hiring decisions when jobs are available.
  3. However older workers can be the most skilled and experienced workers and so at least as productive – and as loyal – as prime age workers.

People living longer creates health and other welfare costs. Having older workers back in jobs is vital both for their sake and the sake of the public purse.

Actions are needed on the demand and supply side of the labour market.

On the demand side:

  • For those with the right skills, help is needed to direct them into new jobs, which means good labour market intelligence and careers guidance.
  • For those whose skills are now obsolete, they need retraining to provide them with new skills as the economy is shaped and new sectors emerge such as the green economy.

On the supply side:

  • Flexible work patterns, such as part-time employment would be helpful as many older workers, particularly those in lower income family groups before the crisis had care responsibilities either for spouses/partners or for grandchildren to support their own children working.

26 April 2021

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Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

s.kiggins@warwick.ac.uk

07876 218166