Are we seeing changes in the employment of older workers: a blip or a more worrying trend?

The growth in employment of older workers over the past twenty years has been very positive showing the gradual upward trend. But new government data could throw a spanner in the works with evidence that over the past year, older people have been exiting the workforce earlier. And the employment rate of people aged 50-64 has also fallen slightly. Both trends are small and are likely to be due to the effects of Covid, but we need to wait to see whether this is just a short-term blip or a reflection of a worrying trend.

The statistics (Economic labour market status of individuals aged 50 and over, trends over time: September 2021 – GOV.UK ( show a slight fall in the employment rate from 72.1 to 71.2 per cent in the past year. For London, the employment rate for 50 -64s is higher than the average for England yet has still dropped from 73.8 per cent in 2020 to 73.1 per cent in 2021. Nationally, the average rate of exiting from the labour market – fell a few points for males to 65.3 years and for women a similar fall to 64.3 years.

Of course, the biggest reason for those not working in the 50 – 65 years age group is down to being sick, injured or disabled but the second biggest reason is retirement. The figures show a slight drop in the numbers who are seeking work or inactive though willing or would like to work. The latest unemployment rate for the 50–65-year-olds group is 3.4%, compared with 2.6% in 2020.

But the key will be carefully looking at these trends in the London labour market over the next and Wise Age is urging policymakers to gather more detailed information and data.

Tim Whitaker

Trustee Wise Age

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