CIPD: UK losing billions by ignoring those ‘still willing to work’, claims charity
Employers are missing out by overlooking the skills and experience of more than a million older people, a charity has warned. According to The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), part of Business in the Community, a ‘missing million’ people over the age of 50 have been pushed out of the workplace involuntarily.
PRIME, set up by Prince Charles after he received letters from older people desperate to find work, claims that harnessing the potential of these workers could add an extra £88 billion to the UK’s GDP.
Its report, ‘The Missing Million: illuminating the employment challenges of the over-50s’, highlights the fact that there are currently 3.3 million economically inactive people between the age of 50 and 64.
Furthermore, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that over 50s have a higher rate of long-term unemployment than any other age group.
According to PRIME, up to 1.5 million mature workers involuntarily left the workforce in the last eight years, citing reasons such as redundancy, ill-health or ‘forced’ early retirement, despite around 1.1 million of them still being willing to work.
From a demographic perspective, harnessing older workers’ potential would be beneficial because the population overall is ageing, the report suggests. The size of the UK’s workforce is only expected to increase by 4.5 per cent over the next 20 years, compared to an 18.2 per cent rise over the last two decades.
With such slow workforce growth, it will be a challenge to fill job vacancies, it adds. Only 7 million young people are projected to leave school or college over the next ten years, yet there are likely to be 13.5 million job vacancies.
By matching the employment rate in the 50 to 64 age group with that of the 35 to 49 age group, UK productivity could increase by 5.6 per cent, PRIME said.
Business in the Community has made a number of recommendations for employers based on the report’s findings, such as developing tailored packages to support the health of older workers, and providing a broader range of flexible working options.
Ros Altmann, the government’s older workers’ business champion, said: “Older workers could provide a major boost to future growth, whereas continuing to waste their skills and experience is a recipe for economic decline.
“Millions of over-50s are out of the labour force when they need not be. With our ageing population, employers and individuals need to radically rethink retirement and ensure as many as possible stay economically active as long as they want to,” she said.
“We have found that older workers aren’t always motivated by money alone. Jobs have to be enjoyable,” Baroness Greengross, UK chief executive of the International Longevity Centre, a think tank that looks at demographic change, added.
“To maximise the economic benefit of older workers in an ageing society we therefore need to make jobs more relevant, satisfying and fun for older people. But we also have to address the health challenges of ageing.”