There is an urgent need to address the challenges faced by jobseekers over 50 in Wales

16 July 2015

Article by Anne Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

This is a picture of the front cover of the Committee's reportEmployment Opportunities for People Over 50: Report by the Enterprise and Business Committee published today (16 July 2015) (pdf 408KB)

Between November 2014 and February 2015, the Enterprise and Business Committee of the National Assembly for Wales carried out an inquiry into the employment opportunities for people over 50.

Having looked at the barriers to employment for 16-24 year olds as part of their inquiry into Assisting Young People into Work in the autumn term 2014, the Committee decided to look into the issues affecting employment for those over 50.

Key Messages in the report:

There is an urgent need to address the challenges faced by jobseekers over 50 in Wales.

A third of people in Wales aged 50-64 are out of work. People are living longer and having to retire later; work is now a necessity not a choice for this age group.

The Committee wants to see:

  • More opportunities for older people to train and update their skills,
  • More research in to barriers faced by this demographic group; and
  • An Age Positive campaign to promote the benefits of employing and retaining workers over 50.

Key statistics

There are just under 1.2 million people aged over 50 in Wales.

A third of 50-64 group are out of work. Of people over 50 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, 36% are long-term unemployed (unemployed for over 12 months).

Witnesses told the Committee that:

It is a myth that older workers are less productive.

It is more cost-effective to train older workers as they are likely to stay much longer with the same employer.  Younger workers are more likely to change employers as they progress up the career ladder.

People over 50 often have dual caring roles – for example for elderly parents and for grandchildren. The Committee heard the term “sandwich carers” and also heard what a difference flexible working patterns can make to the employment prospects for people in this position.

Ill-health or disability is a major cause of economic inactivity in the 50+ age group, primarily among men and low earners. However this can also become a stereotype that “all people over 50 have more health problems”. The Committee heard evidence that around 60 per cent of older workers remain fit, healthy and keen to work.

Older women are at a higher risk of dropping out of employment than men.

Despite relevant legislation, age discrimination (“ageism”) remains a significant issue across the UK.

Work trials, short work experience placements and guaranteed interviews can counteract both real and perceived age discrimination, to give people a chance to show what they can do.

Recommendations

The report makes 11 recommendations.

The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to raise the profile of the issue by running an Age Positive campaign to promote the benefits of employing workers over 50.  They should also publish a skills strategy for people over 50 with specific outcomes.

The Committee is recommending that the Welsh Government should consider designing a scheme similar to Jobs Growth Wales for those over 50 seeking to re-enter the labour market.  We know that short work placements can counteract perceived age discrimination and give people the chance to show what they can do.

We need to know more about the economic issues faced by people over 50 in Wales.  The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government and the Older People’s Commissioner to carry out research into the employment opportunities for people over 50 and how many are long-term unemployed or self-employed.

In some areas employers prefer to employ older workers, for instance, in the care sector.  In general, employment for men and women over 50 looks very different.  The Welsh Government should consider the different barriers faced by men and women when developing any support for people over 50 seeking employment.

Similarly, not enough is known about the extent of discrimination towards people over 50 seeking to re-enter the job market.  The Committee is calling for the Welsh Government to commission research into the extent of age discrimination in Wales.

We are recommending that the Welsh Government should call for the devolution of the Department for Work and Pensions skills programmes to Wales and in the meantime, should continue to work to reduce duplication between the various employability programmes.

Further information about the Enterprise and Business Committee is available on the National Assembly for Wales’ website:  Enterprise and Business Committee

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