Pandemic feeds surge in older workers leaving employment
- During the pandemic, more over 50s left work and are classed as ‘inactive’ than any other age group
- Before this, inactivity among the over 50s was on a downward trend.
- Retirement was main driver, but sickness and looking after family also played a part.
- More men aged 50–70 (with a degree or equivalent) moved from work to inactivity between the summer and autumn of 2021 (42,000) than two years earlier.
- Adults were statistically more likely to retire from professional occupations (58%) than caring, leisure and other services (38%).
- Men were more likely to say they no longer needed the money from their job (7% for men and 3% for women). Women were more likely to leave their job to look after the home or for caring responsibilities (8%) than men (3%).
The ONS has published data on older workers movement out of the workforce
Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown:
“After years of growth, the pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the employment prospects of older workers. The over 50s left work in their droves. Retirement is the key reason with professional men in particular deciding to call time on their careers but sickness and caring responsibilities also featured highly.
Keeping older workers in the workplace has huge benefits for the employers who benefit from their experience, as well as for the workers themselves who can top up their pension planning while enjoying the social aspects of work. If people retire at the time of their choosing, then this is hugely positive, but many people are essentially compelled to leave by caring responsibilities or because they feel unable to get another role. This in turn could cause them real financial difficulties further down the line.
We need to ensure the way we work is not essentially forcing older people out of the workforce and a more flexible approach may be needed. It enables people to keep working while balancing caring responsibilities or maintaining their health. Recent figures from the ONS showed over a third of older workers who were willing to return to the workforce would prioritise a job that offered flexible working. The pandemic has shown a more flexible approach to work can be successful and could play a vital role in keeping older workers employed.”