Warning over mass exodus of older male workers post-pandemic

A growing number of older workers have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic.

Almost 1.5 million men aged 50-64 are now classed as economically inactive, up 13 per cent since the pandemic started and the highest level since consistent records began being kept in 1992.

The founder of an online community for the over-50s said the figures should send “alarm bells ringing” among employers who need to do more to retain and attract highly experienced older workers, particularly in a heated jobs market.

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Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less, said: “An unexpected mass exodus from the jobs market of any part of the population poses huge risk to business and society. When the exodus is from highly experienced workers, not only does this equate to a serious loss of talent but it also impacts on team productivity, efficiency and cognitive diversity within teams.”He said a number of factors lay behind the rise in economic inactivity.

“In the wake of the pandemic, some people have re-appraised what’s important to them and have chosen to leave the workforce before they reach state pension age,” he said,

“Others have fallen out of the jobs market unexpectedly due to poor health, caring responsibilities or redundancy and they are facing an early retirement for which they are neither financially or emotionally prepared. We know that workers in their 50s and 60s are less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts, are more likely to face age discrimination in the recruitment process and once unemployed, this means they are significantly more likely to end up in long term unemployment .”

Lewis said with the cost of living soaring, he was particularly concerned about people who haven’t financially prepared to stop working yet but have found themselves with no choice but to exit the workforce entirely.

“This can leave people in a very vulnerable position with years and in some cases over a decade to bridge until they reach the safety net of the state pension,” he said.

However, Rest Less said that figures in the Office of National Statistics’ latest Over 50s Lifestyle Study suggests the “great retirement’” of older workers may only be temporary.

It found that 22 per cent of all respondents who had left the workforce since the pandemic would not rule out returning to work or self-employment. There is also a notable difference between men and women. One in four male respondents said they would consider returning to employment compared with 19 per cent of women.“The ONS data provides a glimmer of hope that if employers can create the right opportunities for people of all ages to thrive in the workplace, then the trend might at least in part reverse,” said Lewis. “It should be a massive wake up call for employers who are struggling to retain and attract talented candidates. Progressive employers who invest in measures such as flexible working, all age apprenticeships and retraining and upskilling for employees of all ages are most likely to attract this experienced generation back into the workplace and tap into all the benefits of a multigenerational workforce.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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