Ready, willing - but too old

Aug 14 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Over one million 50 - 65 year olds in the UK are ready, willing and able to contribute to the economy but can't get a job because employers won't recruit older workers or retain the ones they already employ.

The continuing problem of older workers being pushed out of jobs and on to benefits and early pensions is highlighted in a new report by trade union body, the TUC, which calls on the government to introduce policies and practices to encourage firms to retain and recruit workers over 50.

The finding echo a study published in May which found that while nearly six out of 10 baby boomer Britons want to work beyond the normal state pension age, two-thirds find it impossible to get a job within 10 years of retirement as firms still seek to put employees aged over 50 out to pasture.

According to the TUC, of the 2.6 million 50-65 year olds who are currently unemployed or economically inactive - that is not working or actively looking for work - over a third want a job, the report says, with 250,000 actively looking and 750,000 who say they want work.

Moreover, despite an average retirement age of 63, only 12 per cent of non-working 50 - 65 year olds fit the stereotype of 'early retired, affluent professionals' and only a third retire early voluntarily.

As a result, many survive on state support such as Incapacity Benefit or inadequate occupational pensions until they reach state pension age (65 for men, 60 for women but rising to 65 between 2010 - 2020).

Research suggests that 40 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women retired earlier than they expected, with employers instigating two thirds of these early retirements. Another study found that half of those retiring early said it was their choice but only a quarter had voluntarily accepted a good deal.

Yet over the next ten years the number of people under 50 will fall by two per cent while the number aged 50 - 69 will rise by 17 per cent, massively increasing the ratio of pensioners to working people.

The TUC estimates that without an extra one million people in work by 2015 workers will face higher taxes, later retirement or old-age poverty.

The report warns that government plans to tackle the problem by raising state pension will simply push even more older people on to benefits, unless employers stop discriminating against older workers and adopt age management strategies to retain over-fifties.

"Most baby boomers are not retiring early to cruise around the world or go bungee jumping. They have been dumped out of work and on to the scrapheap and are scraping by on benefits or small work pensions," said TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady.

"By refusing to retain and recruit older staff, who want to work, employers are accelerating the demographic timebomb the economy is resting on. Companies need to ditch tired stereotypes of fifty and sixty-somethings and develop age management policies which capitilise on the value of experienced staff by offering retraining and flexible working, and making minor changes for people with disabilities."