Today’s budget is a missed opportunity to put in place meaningful measures to address the very real problem of the large numbers of people aged 50+ who are not in work. The chancellor seems to assume that all people aged 50+ are affluent retirees who he needs to tempt back off the golf course, In fact, most workless 50+ people of working age are in a very different situation, facing poverty, exclusion and lack of opportunity. Wise Age would therefore make the following points, in the hope that the real barriers preventing older people returning to the workplace, and thriving in the workplace, are finally addressed.
- The early retirement to the golf course is very much limited to the wealthy, the majority of workless 50+ want to work but can’t because of ageism an issue which has been neglected since long before the pandemic. But other big barriers are ill-health and caring responsibilities.
- The economic inactivity, apart from those with resources to support some level of retirement- is concentrated in terms of ethnicity, gender and low skill occupations – plus the poorest suffer most from ill-health. NB 1 in 5 who have retired don’t have sufficient pension resources which puts them at real risk of poverty.
- The numbers in work including pensioners should be recognised and welcomed. However we need to recognise that the post 50 employment participation rate (which had been rising over many years) has now declined and is below other countries. Therefore, this is a UK problem.
- There is a need for local, age-specific support which achieves positive results, and is holistic which also tackles health, housing, and financial wellbeing issues. Flexible working, the idea of an MOT and support to help older people back to work is a good one in principle but needs to address the major issue of ageism in employment and the low progress in increasing numbers of age friendly employers.
- The issue for government and employers is around retention of older workers – the evidence is that low job satisfaction (which has risen for some years for older workers) is related to health issues and to keeping a job.
- The over 50s and pensioners divide like other ages into wealthy and poor, and there are a lot of poor people out of work under 66 and also pensioners who need and want to work.
- The real need is for adequate planned provision of government resources, co-ordinated through central and local government to provide more tailored employment support, (tailored to the over-50s and to local issues) provided by specialist organisations like Wise Age. Crucially, these organisations need to be supported in overcoming employer and recruitment ageism and sell the benefits of older workers and age diversity.
- Pension increases are to be welcomed but increases also need to be given to other benefits and to the National Living Wage (minimum wage).
- The needs of older and younger people are for better social infrastructure including health, housing and community provision.