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New Report: The Missing Million: Pathways back to employment

by on February 11, 2015

The second in a series of reports by Business in the Community (in conjunction with the International Longevity Centre and the charity PRIME) has been published this week. The series examines issues around age and the contemporary UK workplace, with particular focus on the ‘missing million’ of older people (defined as 50-64) who have left the workplace for reasons beyond their control and now struggle to find employment. The Report, entitled The Missing Million: Pathways back to employment, is available to download via this link.

Its key finding is that ‘older people, in their efforts to navigate opportunities for work, are being failed at every turn. They find it more difficult to keep their jobs and more difficult to find new work after job loss. When they do find work, they are more likely to take up alternative forms of employment that may not be the best fit for their needs and desires‘.

The Report finds that the over-50s continue to face age discrimination from employers and increasingly have either to start their own businesses or work unpaid contrary to their preference for what the Report refers to as ‘traditional positions of employment’. I think this simply means paid employment – as opposed to self-employment or voluntary work – but there are some echoes in this of the call for ‘decent jobs’ made by the TUC last year. This highlighted the effects of casualisation, low pay and zero hours contracts which were said to effect women and younger workers in particular.

The focus of this second Missing Million Report is on how the over-50s can find such paid jobs again. There’s obviously quite a lot to digest in this very useful publication but some of the key observations are:

  • Many older people still want or need to work. Older people who lose their job are just as likely as other age groups to look for another job, and around a quarter of older people who lost their job and became inactive would prefer to still be working.
  • Employers can help. Employers have an important role in helping to change the situation where concerns about health or the perpetuation of age-related stereotypes operate to prevent older workers from being recruited.
  • Older workers are less likely than younger ones to obtain paid jobs. Currently, just over half of those aged 50-64 who found work ended up working for an employer, compared to well over two-thirds of those in younger age groups.
  • Older people are more likely than younger people to take up self-employment when leaving economic inactivity. But this requires a particular set of skills and isn’t for everyone. Older people who are in need of work could be at risk of losing even more if they end up forced to start their own business due to lack of other income and work opportunities.
  • Nearly 11% of the employment found by people aged 50-64 is unpaid. This is mostly through participating in government training schemes or doing unpaid work in a family business.
  • Job Centres are not fit for purpose.  They were accused by the focus groups in the Report of not offering information adequately tailored to the needs of older people or appropriate job opportunities.
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