Apart from the heat this summer older workers have been facing other employment pressures coupled with the early signs of the detrimental effects of cost-of-living pressures.

Latest figures from the ONS  (UK Labour Market: August 2022 – Office for National Statistics ( show that the economic inactivity rate for the 50-64s (i.e. those neither looking for work nor actually working ) has increased by 0.3 per cent on the last quarter. The sobering fact is that 527,000 over 50s have left the jobs market since before the pandemic first started .

For those under 50 in contrast the economic inactivity rate has come down by 1.4 per cent – a more positive sign. But these figures don’t’ bear out the hope that this trend would be blip and older workers starting to get back into jobs.

Certainly, attention in the media has been around getting more support for older workers – even the Chair of John Lewis waded into the debate arguing for more support for older workers  John Lewis boss: Over-50s quitting the workforce fuels inflation – BBC News. The argument in some parts of the media seems to be about  persuading older workers to get back into the jobs market and do their bit to help out a  tight job market . Certainly Government action needs to ramped up in terms of bespoke support for older workers and although initiatives were unveiled earlier in the summer it’s unclear whether this grand promise was new money plus whether the cuts in DWP support were being reversed 

But it also requires employers to rethink how they approach older workers and provide a more conducive culture with flexible working opportunities and help with those who have caring responsibilities. Some of the bigger employers are rightly making progress but it needs to be more mainstream and accepted as the right thing to do . And recruitment practices can still be unconsciously ageist inhibiting older workers applying for jobs.

The dangers are that the cost-of-living crisis will mean real wages will drop further and inflation creeps up more and energy prices spiralling those on low incomes will suffer hardship including many older workers. In London unemployment has dropped slightly but is still the second highest in the UK and cost pressures in the capital are high.

Tim Whitaker

Trustee Wise Age