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Older workers: In the prime of their lives
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Much has been said recently about the plight of young people searching for jobs in the UK, and how a shortage of positions is causing widespread youth unemployment. But according to a new report from Policy Exchange, similar problems are being experienced at the other end of the age spectrum. The think tank has warned against continued discrimination against older people seeking jobs with UK employers, and rising rates of joblessness among the over 50s.
In its new report entitled 'Too Much to Lose: Understanding and Supporting Britain's Older Workers', Policy Exchange warns that over 50s who lose their jobs are most likely to remain out of work for long periods of time. The think tank found that while the number of people working past 50 has significantly increased over the past 20 years, the jobs market is increasingly difficult for those who find themselves out of a job. At the end of 2011, 189,000 over 50s who were unemployed had been out of work for a year or more, 43 per cent of the market. By comparison, 26 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds and 35 per cent of 25 to 49-year-olds were in the same position.
To highlight the problems faced by older workers, Policy Exchange applied for over 1,200 bar jobs and personal assistant positions as a 51-year-old and a 25-year-old. While the applicants' CVs were identical other than the age factor, the young applicant received nearly 125 per cent more positive responses to the bar job and 45 per cent more positive responses to the personal assistant position. Policy Exchange said that unless greater focus is placed on the problems facing older workers, serious long-term damage could be inflicted on the economy.
Older workers often possess skills and experience far in excess of their younger counterparts, but they also tend to command higher salaries. Employers may be fearful of the cost of hiring such individuals, despite the contribution they can make to their organisation. They may also be wary of hiring and training older workers who are looking towards retirement, although with the pension age rising many 50-year-olds face the prospect of up to two decades more in the workplace.
Policy Exchange has made a number of recommendations, such as promoting volunteering among older workers, holding 'protected conversations concerning retirement, and providing retraining opportunities for older people. But in order to see change, employers have to be more willing to give older workers a chance and recognise the benefits they can bring to their organisations.
Matthew Tinsley, author of the think tank report, said it is not surprising that there has been less of a focus on older workers in recent debate. "Youth unemployment topped the million mark recently and on the face of it older workers have fared relatively well over the past few decades," he stated. However, he explained that there are now over eight million people aged 50 or over in the UK workforce. "The skills and experience that older workers offer employers is vitally important to businesses and the economy as a whole," he commented. "Greater levels of support must be put in place to help unemployed older workers back into the labour market, and to support individuals' opportunities later in life."
Posted by Jon Aspinell
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