Nearly 200,000 working people over the age of 50 have been forced to leave the workforce and seek early retirement since the beginning of the Covid-19 outrbreak, according to new research with highlights the devastating impact of the pandemic on older people.
Analysis of official date from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) by the website ‘Rest Less’ found that the inactivity levels of people aged over 50 has risen more than any other age group since March 2020.
Rest Less’s analysis shows that there were 198,000 workers aged over 50 who dropped out of the UK workforce and became economically ‘inactive’ since the pandemic began – an increase of 1.4 per cent in the most recent period (March – May) compared with the beginning of the year (December – February).
Economic Inactivity is an important measure that shows how many people have dropped out of the workforce enitirely rather than just becoming unemployed.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, explains: “Many of today’s over 50s now have to work until they are 66 before they can claim their state pension.
“In addition to the rapid increase in the number of over 50s who are claiming Universal Credit (a 93% increase since the beginning of this year), these figures come as an alarming additional warning as to the true impact of the pandemic on older workers.
“In the wake of the toughest job market in decades, there has been a significant rise in the number of workers over 50 who have lost hope in finding a job and feel forced into an early retirement that many simply cannot afford.
“Sadly, these numbers are simply the canary in the coal mine: with the furlough scheme winding up and 2.5 million over 50s having been furloughed, we expect this to leave a permanent scar on this generation and their employment prospects.”
He continued: “Age discrimination in the workplace was rife prior to the pandemic, and is only set to increase in the wake of the crisis.
“Older workers have powered UK employment and economic growth over the last 10 years: if we lose this generation from the workforce entirely, we risk losing valuable key skills and key workers from the workplace for good.”
Women over 50 appear to be the hardest hit with nearly 100,000 forced to leave the workforce entirely since the beginning of the pandemic.
ONS data suggests that the economic inactivity rates of all other female age groups has actually fallen, but for those over 50 it has increased by 1.3% between March – May compared with December – February. The figure was highest amongst working age women between 50 and 64 whose economic inactivity levels rose by two per cent.
Mr Lewis added: “The gender pay gap is at its widest for women in their 50s. Years of an earnings gap has led to a large pension savings gap between men and women which leaves many women in their 50s and 60s in a financially precarious position ahead of retirement.
“In a tough labour market, it can be much harder for people to return to the workplace if they have been out of the workforce for any length of time.
“Women are far more likely to have taken time out to care for children, parents or a relative than their male counterparts, placing them at a natural disadvantage to other candidates who never left the workforce.
‘In the last recession of 2009, women could retire at 60. Today they retire at 66, meaning there are 2.4 million more women having to find work before they are entitled to claim their state pension.”
Rest Less’s analysis comes off the back of previous analysis highlighting the soaring rate of Universal Credit claims amongst the over 50s.
Based on the most recent data from the Office of National Statistics, Rest Less found that Universal Credit claims have increased by 93 per cent since the beginning of 2020 amongst the over 50s.