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What do the latest ONS figures tell us about age and work?

by on January 21, 2016

The Office for National Statistics yesterday issued the its latest bulletin on the UK labour market. One of the key headlines was that the employment rate is the highest it has been since comparable records began in 1971, currently standing at 74% . Interestingly though, this only meaures the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who are in work. Maybe it’s time to raise or do away with an upper age limit for this group? I know this runs into potential difficulties when there is a separate category of those who are 65 and over and economically inactive. But given the removal of mandatory retirement and the rise in state pension age, it might be helpful to disentagle chronological age and work/economic status.

As usual, a number of organizations commented on these figures, specifically in relation to different age groups.

As reported here in The Guardian, David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, warned of continuing problems for young people in gaining a job: “While the youth unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the 2008 downturn, it is still much higher than the national average”. It’s 13.7% – that’s about two and a half times the average employment rate.

Meanwhile, the CIPD issued this press release in which Mark Beatson, its Chief Economist, drew attention to the fact that unemployment has not fallen over the past year among the over-50s. This is in contrast to the 18-24 age group where unemployment has fallen fastest. He makes the point (which has certainly been the subject of academic research) that older workers tend to find it harder than younger age groups to find a job once they have become unemployed. His call to action is targeted at employers (‘to change their approach to workforce planning‘) and to Government (‘to ensure that those who want to keep working over the age of 50 have every chance to do so‘) – though the release doesn’t specify exactly what Government should do to achieve this.

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