Employment support for unemployed older people

Document type
Foster, Sarah; Colechin, Jane; Bivand, Paul
Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion
Date of publication
1 June 2014
Employment, Older Adults
Social welfare
Material type

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Older people who are out of work face significant barriers in the labour market and typically spend longer unemployed than people aged under 50. In order to help understand why, this research looked at the extent to which employment support meets the needs of older jobseekers. It confirms that while there are external factors involved, the design and structure of the Work Programme is at least in part responsible for the difficulties. It also presents clear evidence that age itself is a barrier to returning to work – simply being aged 50 or older does makes it more difficult to find work, notwithstanding health or other factors.

Addressing this is important for several reasons. Equality and fairness, tackling the social and personal consequences of unemployment, and the (well proven) business and economic cases for fully utilising older workers, together provide a compelling rationale for providing specific support for older jobseekers. As the UK’s population ages, and the state retirement age rises, these issues will become increasingly important. This research suggests that the Work Programme, and other welfare-to-work interventions, can – and should – be redesigned to alleviate labour market inequalities, including helping older jobseekers move back to work.

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