Long term unemployment for those aged 50 and above has doubled since the start of the recession, according to official statistics. The number of over 50′s who have been out of work for more than a year is now at it’s highest level since the mid 1990′s. With the media almost exclusively focusing on long term youth unemployment, the over 50′s age group can sometimes become forgotten. Ian Brinkley from the Work Foundation thinktank says that..”…there’s huge political capital with young people … but the most important thing is not to forget about over-50s.” Although the default retirement age has been abolished, it still seems employers will naturally prefer younger candidates compared with those in their late 50′s and 60′s. Of the over 50′s who are unemployed, half of them have been so for more than one year, compared to just 25% of unemployed 18 – 24 year olds.
Aside from alleged in-built prejudice against older workers, other factors which favour younger people is that older workers are often less able to relocate because of existing commitments. By 2020 33% of the working population will be aged over 50′s, which could see a large number people in this age group having to live on benefits due to lack of employment opportunities. Despite the rising level of unemployment in this age group, older workers can be of huge benefit to companies according to Dianah Worman from the CIPD. She says that…”…the business case for older workers is strong and research shows their impact and experience within the organisation enables better customer service, enhanced knowledge retention – and can help to address talent and skills shortages.”
According to recent survey of over 50′s of the 441 questioned, 65% said they would work for free in order to gain more experience. In addition to this, 75% said they would work for lower wages in exchange for a full or part time job that offered more security. One explanation for these responses maybe that government back to work initiatives and employer incentives almost always focus around younger people.