LIsa Griffiths, a 61-year-old special needs nanny, has easily spent her career shifting from one contract to another. So when his last five-year contract recently ended, he was surprised to find new job opportunities much more limited than he bargained for.
Then, while he was considering his options, the pandemic hit and the job dried up completely.
“It has been a real shock to me, and my fear is that if this forced unemployment has to do not only with the pandemic but also with my age, I have no evidence that it is age discrimination, but I have a strong feeling that it does. it is. then things will get worse and not better, “he said.
“If I retire before my state retirement age and then my husband loses his job, it would be a catastrophe,” she added. “I know there are things like universal credit, but we’ve never had to rely on government support before and I’m not sure my husband came up with the idea.”
Since the Equality Act of 2010 prohibited discrimination against a person on the basis of age, employment rates among people over 50 have steadily increased. Before the pandemic, rates had reached an all-time high, with a record 10.7 million people aged 50 and over at work, nearly a third of the UK’s workforce.
The story of seniors and employment was largely one of those weird things – a good news story that appealed to just about everyone and everything, individuals, society, and the economy alike.
This economic trajectory made everyone a winner, said Lily Parsey of the International Longevity Center UK. “A common argument against greater participation in the labor market in old age is that it will somehow prevent younger people from accessing paid employment by taking away all jobs,” he said.
However, this argument is based on false assumptions: in March 2020, it was estimated that at least 80% of job growth in the UK came from workers over 50.
Of course, there were parts of the population that were not affected by the good news. Even before the pandemic, there were some 800,000 people between the ages of 50 and 64 who were not working and wanted to be. More than 1 million people aged 50-64 were out of work for health reasons, 300,000 of whom wanted a job.
However, things were going in the right direction. But then the pandemic hit. Of course, it has been disastrous for a large portion of workers in general, especially those aged 18-24, whose employment rate has fallen 3.5 percentage points (ppt) since March compared to just 0.4 ppt for workers. between 35 and 49 years old. For older workers, the drop in employment has been somewhere in the middle, at 1 ppt.
But we cut the data in another way, in terms of the percentage increase in unemployment, and the age group most affected by the pandemic are those aged 50 and over. There are now 91,000 more unemployed older people than 12 months ago – a one-third increase in a single year, significantly more than in any other age group.
That third is significantly more than the national average increase of 24% and the 25% increase in unemployed people ages 18-24. For people aged 25 to 34, the increase was 28% and for those aged 35 to 49, the increase was 19%.
That third represents 407,000 individual stories of unemployment in later life, a group that now makes up one in four of all unemployed in the UK.
This is important because, despite the advances of the last decade, dismissal is an especially age-related problem: people over 50 who lose their job are significantly more likely to suffer long-term unemployment than other groups old, and older workers lose their jobs are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be unemployed for at least two years.
Another worrying point, raised by Dr. Anna Dixon of the Center for Aging Better, It’s that the seemingly healthy employment rate for those over 50 is masking something else: people who are on leave, or who have had their hours cut, continue to appear in this data as “busy.” But your job may not be safe.
“During the summer, the leave rates showed a U-shape, and the youngest and oldest workers were the most likely to be absent from work,” Dixon said.
By September, however, unlicensed 55-64 students were the least likely to return to work. “So while it seems superficially that older workers will be the ‘second worst hit’ by job losses in this recession, once we take into account the fact that older workers are at greatest risk of long-term unemployment. term, it is clear that after this pandemic there could be a lost generation of unemployed over the age of 50 forced into early retirement who are unwilling and unable to pay, ”Dixon said.
This, said Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest less, the job site for people over 50, is catastrophic for hundreds of thousands of seniors. Contrary to popular belief, he said, most of the fifties and sixties do not revel in their final gold-plated salary pensions, a lost preserve of their parents’ generation, and have not had enough time under the automatic enrollment of pensions. have accumulated equivalent savings.
Instead, Lewis said, many face a significantly underfunded retirement and are seeing what savings they have decimated by the pandemic. This, in turn, will lead to a significant long-term drop in your future retirement income and expenses, which risks stalling the UK’s economic recovery for years to come.
“Those in their 50s and 60s are in a more financially precarious position than most people imagine,” he said. “It is tragic to think that more than 626,000 people over 50 are claiming universal credit, which means that after three decades in the workplace, they have less than £ 16,000 of savings in their name to qualify for universal credit.
“It is also useful to reflect that in the last recession, women could retire at age 60 and receive the state pension; today there are 66 ”, he added. “This means that someone laid off at the age of 55 still has to find a meaningful job, or try to survive on universal credit, for the next 11 years before they can claim the state pension.”
Everyone agrees that this is not just a personal tragedy for the older generation, it is a problem for everyone: harnessing the potential of workers, regardless of their age, will be crucial in the post-pandemic recovery. With an aging population, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism