With the UK still mired in economic troubles and unemployment high, it is perhaps obvious that we need to get more people into work.
Among older people, who find it harder than any other age group in the UK to move into work, this needs to be a real priority, in particular when we look at how poorly Britain fares compared with our international competitors. We see that getting more people aged 50+ into work can be done.
According to some new research by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank which focuses on people on low to middle incomes, the employment rate for 55-64 year olds in the UK lags well behind the best performing countries from around the world.
While the average of the 5 best performers is about 72%, the UK falls well short with only 57% in work.This is a huge gap and shows that globally, when the opportunities are there and the incentives are right, people in their late 50s and above are often keen to keep working.
Undoubtedly there are lessons Britain can learn from these countries to help meet our economic challenges – particularly if, as Age UK believes, people should have the right to work longer if they want to.
Care and work, work and care
There is a clear and known link between informal caring and work. We already know that over a third of people with a caring responsibility are forced to quit work, and this is a major part of the reason why UK employment among this age group lags behind, particularly in women’s employment rates (although the lower State Pension also has an impact).
The report shows that Sweden is one of the 5 top performing countries for employing older workers, and has around half the rate of informal caring as in the UK. Where people do care, they tend to do so less intensively, and so are more able to work as well.
This highlights once again just how important the availability of flexible working is to older workers. In order to balance caring commitments and maintain high employment rates, it’s essential that UK employers become more willing to offer flexible working arrangements, thereby enabling more people to keep working. At present these opportunities are all too rare.
Failure to boost employment rates for this age group and bring back the ‘missing’ older workers is bad for them, bad for business and bad for the economy.