Covid-19 could reverse pensioner poverty progress

Covid-19 could increase pensioner poverty and reverse progress that has been made in increasing employment among older generations, according to a report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The report, entitled The State of Ageing in 2020, showed that older workers had been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with the number of over-50s claiming unemployment-related benefits having doubled to 600,000 people between March 2020 and September.

Over-50s also comprised around a quarter of workers who had been furloughed, with 2.7 million being placed on the scheme and 400,000 of their jobs thought to be at risk of disappearing.

Almost a third (29 per cent) of unemployed people above the age of 50 were found to have been out of work for more than 12 months, compared to a fifth (20 per cent) of 25-49 year olds and 13 per cent of 18-24 year olds.

The report noted that this could result in the reversal of progress of increased employment among older workers, noting that the employment rate among people aged 50-64 has risen from 60 per cent to around 73 per cent since 2000.

Consequently, the report called for employers to value an age-diverse workforce and ensure they offer flexible working arrangements and training to workers of all ages, while it also emphasised the need for the government to offer targeted, individualised employment support for this group.

Phoenix Group CEO, Andy Briggs, commented: “Until recently we were celebrating the record level of people over 50 in employment – with one in three UK workers now in that age bracket. This progress has now gone into decline. We risk people, who want and need to work, falling out of the labour market for good.

“This would mean millions of people struggling with long-term unemployment in the years when they planned to be saving for their future. As glum as it may sound these people would, instead, head inexorably towards pension poverty.”

Briggs continued: “Every age matters but those who are older have less time to recover their finances. We support the Centre for Ageing Better’s call to action for all employers to value an age-diverse workforce and to ensure they offer flexible working arrangements and training to workers of all ages.

“We also need government to offer targeted support, including opportunities for those with long careers in shut-down sectors to retrain. Businesses and society can’t afford to lose the experience and diversity of those aged over 50 from the workforce.”

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