UK's 'missing million' workers aged 50-64 could boost growth: new study

New Business in the Community research suggests that by harnessing the potential of the million-plus people aged over 50 currently out of work, employers could help boost national productivity by 5.6 per cent and add £88bn to UK GDP.

Happy older worker and team behind him
The campaigning charity for a more sustainable and fairer future, Business in the Community (BITC), claims that the UK is losing billions by ignoring those ‘still willing to work’.The Prince Charles’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), newly-merged with and now a campaign of Business in the Community, says that a ‘missing million’ people over the age of 50 have been pushed out of the workplace ‘involuntarily’.BITC/PRIME’s newly-published joint report, The Missing Million: Illuminating the employment challenges of the over 50s, is the first of three to look at the economic barriers to this age group in the context of a rising state pension age and growing life expectancy. It highlights the 3.3 million economically inactive people between the age of 50 and 64 (28.3% of the age group), and the key contributing factors.Long-term unemployment rates for this age group are higher than any other age group. According to the PRIME campaign, up to 1.4 million workers aged 50-69 have involuntarily left the workforce in the last eight years through redundancy, ill-health or early retirement, despite around 1.2 million of them still being willing to work.Given the demographic, skills and economic challenges facing the UK, BITC suggests that harnessing older workers’ potential could help fill skills gaps. National data projects that only 7 million young people are projected to leave school or college over the next 10 years. However, there are likely to be 13.5 million job vacancies. Employer and government efforts to match the employment rate in the 50-64 age group with that of the 35-49 age group could therefore see UK productivity increase by 5.6 per cent, PRIME said.The study makes a number of recommendations for employers to this end based on the report’s findings, including developing tailored packages to support the health of older workers, retraining and providing a broader range of flexible working options.Ros Altmann, the government’s older workers’ business champion, said: “Older workers could provide a major boost to future growth, whereas continuing to waste their skills and experience is a recipe for economic decline.“Millions of over-50s are out of the labour force when they need not be. With our ageing population, employers and individuals need to radically rethink retirement and ensure as many as possible stay economically active as long as they want to,” she said.“We have found that older workers aren’t always motivated by money alone. Jobs have to be enjoyable,” Baroness Greengross, UK chief executive of the International Longevity Centre, a think tank that looks at demographic change, added.“To maximise the economic benefit of older workers in an ageing society we therefore need to make jobs more relevant, satisfying and fun for older people. But we also have to address the health challenges of ageing.”

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