Friday, June 14, 2024

The old can bring £9bn boost to economy as UK future prosperity hangs on them

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Getting more older workers in jobs and assisting them to remain employed could boost the economy by as much as £9bn a year, a report says.

Adding more older staff could ­attract an extra £1.6bn in income tax and national insurance alone.

The future of UK growth and productivity over the next Parliament depends on mobilising the 50-plus workforce, according to the charity Centre for Ageing Better (CAB).

It called for all political parties to commit to raising the employment rate of workers aged 50 to 64 to 75 per cent by 2030.

Better employment support, targeted at all over-fifties out of work, allowing people to upskill, reskill and develop in their fifties and sixties would help increase numbers of older workers by 500,000.

It calls for a review of Department of Work and Pension’s employment and benefits approach to people in their sixties before the state pension age increases to 67 from 2026.

It also calls for introducing paid carer’s leave and a default right to flexible work from day one by the end of the next Parliament as well as a government-backed campaign to reduce ageism and champion the value of good work for people in their fifties and sixties.

The report found that people in their fifties and sixties are nearly twice as likely as younger adults to become long-term unemployed once out of work. Despite this just one in 10 people aged 50-64 who are out of work engage in back-to-work support and, when they do, their outcomes are significantly worse than the all-age average.

Researchers said that nearly one in three workers aged 50-70 who left their position during the pandemic report experiencing age discrimination when looking for work.

More than 500,000 people aged 50-65 in this country who would like to be in work but are not. 

Dr Emily Andrews, of the charity, said: “By 2030, there will be an additional 1.2 million people aged 50-64 in the UK, but only another 500,000 people aged 15-29. The future of UK growth depends on mobilising the 50-plus workforce.

“This is not about special treatment for older workers. This is about fairness and ensuring equal opportunity for older workers seeking employment or wanting to stay in work that will benefit employers, the economy and the whole country.”

Tony Wilson, of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Three-quarters of all employment growth this century has been among people aged over 50 but in the last four years this has ground to a halt. For the first time in three decades, employment among older people has stopped growing.

Addressing this needs to be a top priority for whoever wins this general election, as helping more older people into work and to stay in work is going to be key to supporting a stronger economy, better public finances and fewer people in poverty.

“A 75 per cent target looks ambitious from where we are now, but it is really the least that we should aim for. We’re currently around 20th in Europe for employment among older people, and around a dozen countries are already at 75 per cent higher. We should be there too.”

Caroline Abrahams, at Age UK, said: “Never before has Britain needed its older workers as it does now. With all the years or experience, knowledge, and wisdom the 50-plus age group can bring, it’s of huge importance that everyone who wants to work is able to do so.

“However, for many people it’s not always that easy. Older workers face many barriers, particularly if they are carers, have a health condition, or have recently found themselves unemployed and looking to retrain, not to mention the ageism that pervades the labour market and prevents many in this age group from fulfilling their potential.

“It’s crucial the next government looks urgently at how to facilitate more – and better – working in later life, in terms of both enabling people to stay with their existing employer, and to find alternative work if the need arises.

“Without a focused effort that looks explicitly at the barriers faced by older workers, we risk failing to take full advantage of this enormous talent pool, which would be a real tragedy at an individual and a national level.”

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