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Over-50s unemployment soars as another 100,000 pushed out the workforce

Jessica Beard
·3-min read
Redundancy - TMG
Redundancy - TMG

Unemployment has continued to rocket among older workers with another 107,000 over-50s made redundant during the latest lockdown.

Redundancies have been higher in older workers versus all other age groups throughout the pandemic. The number forced out of work between November 2020 and January 2021 was nearly triple the figure in the same period 12 months earlier.

The unemployment rates shot up most for women during the three-month period, rising by 24,000 when compared to the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the overall number of unemployed men over age 50 actually fell. This was due to a rise in the level of inactivity among the age group as both men and women took early retirement.

Overall, over-50s have been the main target of redundancies and this was the second three-month period in a row where more than 100,000 were forced out of work.

The situation could worsen as the year progresses. Almost a third of all those on furlough were over the age of 50, according to Rest Less, an online community for over-50s, that analysed Office for National Statistics numbers.

This cohort has also found it the most difficult to return to work when forced out. Redundancy levels in Britain have fallen 22pc from their peak of 395,000 in September to November 2020 but older workers have been the slowest to get back into the workforce.

Only 11pc of over-50s out of a job have secured new work, while 45pc of those aged 25 to 34 have bounced back into a new role.

Stuart Lewis, of Restless, predicted a further wave of redundancy for older workers when furlough ends. He said: “With an estimated 1.3 million workers over the age of 50 still on furlough, there is a very real danger of a tsunami of redundancies among these workers when struggling employers are required to increase their contribution to the furlough scheme from July.”

Mr Lewis added that once unemployed, workers over the age of 50 are two and a half times more likely to drift into long-term unemployment than younger counterparts. This is down to age discrimination among employers and a lack of access to tailored retraining programmes, he said.

Redundancy levels across all age groups
Redundancy levels across all age groups

Kim Chaplain, of Centre for Ageing Better, a policy campaigning charity, said there was a risk many people would leave the workplace for good as a result of the pandemic.

She said: “These figures show just how devastating the impact of the pandemic has been on over-50s. In the months ahead we need to see a strong message from the Government that not only is this group just as entitled to work as younger workers, they also provide a valuable contribution we cannot afford to lose.”

Many have been forced into ending careers before they can afford to, with an estimated 1.3 million workers expected to retire sooner than planned, according to a report by Legal & General, an insurance firm.

Have you been made redundant in the last year? Share your story in the comments section below.