Wise Age Gives Evidence to GLA Assembly Economy Committee

Wise Age and other experts recently gave evidence to the Greater London Authority’s Assembly Economy Committee’s inquiry into financial hardship and employment facing older workers. This set out an agenda of action for London but also presented a more nuanced view of the priorities in the  “older worker problem”  focussing on overcoming disadvantage – https://www.onlondon.co.uk/campaign-groups-call-for-more-recognition-of-the-strengths-and-needs-of-older-londoners/

Despite London being a rich city, older workers employment position is complicated. On the downside London’s unemployment rate is one of the highest and economic inactivity above average. At 25 per cent, poverty levels among older Londoners are the highest in the country. There are massive disadvantages based on ethnicity, gender and being disabled. And the number of precarious jobs older workers are in is high and they are linked  to precarious households and homes. Low quality and low paid jobs of older workers don’t cope with rising cost of living and risk fuelling future pensioner poverty. Yet, London leads the table on economic inactive workers considering a return to work and Londoners still tend to work later into life than the rest of country, with the highest rate of over-65s in work at 14 per cent and in some Boroughs up to 20 per cent. This then poses the issue of what are the urgent priorities to tackle problems facing London’s older workers.  The Wise Age agenda for London is as follows. 

Core is a GLA led older workers strategy for London involving partners but also using the Mayor’s soft power to stimulate change. Our argument is that older workers have been left behind in London’s economic recovery. 

But we need a better evidence base and understanding of the needs and circumstances of London’s older workers particularly the barriers to employmentand the multiple problems faced. There are big risks of lumping all “older workers” together making assumptions about needs, or looking at older workers through the prism of existing provider employment support initiatives. 

Older workers need access to  better quality localised employment support addressing their needs. This must be tailored, and our evidence is that older workers don’t like being grouped with younger workers on generic employment programmes. Crucially those furthest from the job market, those facing the most inequalities such as disabled, ethnic minority older workers, women and those with health conditions and long-term unemployed need special attention and holistic help going beyond traditional employment support. As only 1 in 10 older workers receive employment support then reaching a wider audience of over 50s through a personalisation agenda and better marketing is necessary.

Finally, but not least – the “elephant in the room”  of ageism by employers needs tackling. Otherwise, older workers face the risk of returning to the workplace but suffer from  the same negative experience of lack of support, falling job satisfaction and jobs not being flexible. The Mayor and partners should run a high profilecombatting ageism campaign across London coupled with a championing older workers campaign to promote age friendly workplaces. 

But with all of these actions we need the right metrics of impact on the ground – and this has been the big weakness.