Older workers have been growing but the employment rate of older workers has seen a slight drop since the pandemic
From the mid-1990s up to the start of the pandemic, the employment rate for people aged 50 years and over has been increasing and the employment rate gap between people aged between 35 and 49 year and people aged between 50 and 64 years has been narrowing The employment rate for people aged 50 to 64 years was 71.2% in the April to June 2021 period. But in the past year, the pandemic has reversed the upward trend, and the employment rate decreased by 0.9 percentage points.
The average age of exit from the labour market has increased over the years
Until last year the average age of exit from the labour market has been increasing steadily for both males and females. In 2021, the male average age of exit from the labour market was aged 65.1 years, compared to aged 65.3 years in 2020, during which time, the State Pension age for men and women increased from 65 to 66 by October 2020.
Older people economically inactive in the labour market
Over 790,000 people aged between 50 and 64 years are either actively seeking work, or are inactive but are willing or would like to work, a fall from 810,000 in 2020.
Being sick, injured or disabled continues to be the main reason why people aged between 50 and 64 years are economically inactive in the labour market (36.9%, or 1.3 million), although the number of people in this age group stating retirement as a reason for not seeking work is close behind (35.1% or 1.2 million).
Unemployed older workers
The 2021 fall in employment rates for people aged 50 to 64 years (a drop of 0.9 percentage points) has resulted in an increase of 0.8 percentage points in their unemployment rate. The latest unemployment rate for this group is 3.4%, compared with 2.6% in 2020.
The unemployment rate for people aged 50 to 64 years follows a similar overall trend to the rate for people aged 35 to 49 years, with both rates tracking very closely since 2014.
Older unemployed workers take longer to find a job and may exit the labour market
58% of employees aged 60 or over who were made redundant during the pandemic were neither in, nor searching for, paid work six months later, compared with just 38% in the three years prior. It appears that increased numbers of older workers are just exiting the labour force altogether.
Part-time employment of older workers
Women aged 50 to 64 years are considerably more likely than men of the same age to be in part-time employment. Between aged 50 and 54 years, women are four times more likely to be employed part-time than men, but are twice as likely to be employed part-time for those aged 60 to 64 years, with higher proportions of men moving into part-time work between age 60 and 64.
Employment of the over 65s
Full-time employment for people aged 65 and over has increased at a steady, constant rate since 1996. Part-time employment for people aged 65 and over has also increased steadily since 1996 but has fallen slightly in 2021. Part-time employment for people aged 65 and over has fallen by 0.8 percentage points between 2016 and 2021 (to 6.2%). This fall is driven by a fall of 1.2 percentage points for men aged 65 and overworking part-time, compared with a slight fall of 0.2 percentage points for women aged 65 and overworking part-time.
In which sectors do older workers work?
Workers aged 50 to 64 years have a broadly similar distribution amongst industry sectors to those aged 35 to 49 years. Older workers are most prevalent in the public admin, education and health sectors with over one in three older workers employed in these sectors.
More than half (52.1%) of female workers aged 50 to 64 years are employed in the public admin, education and health sectors, with another 29.5% of older female workers in the distribution, hotels and restaurants industries, or banking and finance. Similar rates are seen for female workers aged 35 to 49 years, with 49.1% employed in public admin, education and health sectors, and 30.4% employed in the distribution, hotels and restaurants industries, or banking and finance.
In comparison, older males have a more even distribution across all industry sectors, with public admin, education and health again the most prevalent but at 19.7%, or just under one in five older men.
Older workers are more likely to be self-employed
Older workers are far more likely to be self-employed than younger workers, with self-employment increasing with age and men being more likely to be self-employed than women in all older age groups.
How do London employment figures compare
- The employment rate for 50-64s is higher than average for England but has dropped from 73.8 per cent in 2020 to 73.1 per cent in 2021.
- London appears to have been hit harder in employment during the pandemic – Workers in London accounted for 16% of the redundancies made during COVID-19, compared with just 12% in the three years prior to the pandemic.
- Only 44% of Londoners made redundant during COVID-19 had found new work within six months, compared with 58% of workers in the rest of the UK.