Employment support for the over 50s?

Why have so many people over 50 become economically inactive, and how do we get them back into the labour market? Kwasi Kwarteng has an answer. Will it work?

The new former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, has laid out a plan to reverse inactivity in the labour market by making changes to the benefits system for part-time workers.

He has cited a sharp increase in economic activity amongst the over-50s since the pandemic as contributing significantly to shortages in the jobs market; one of the key issues driving up inflation.

ONS data shows clearly that those aged 50+ had the most movement out of the labour market consistently throughout the pandemic.


Volume change of economically inactive people by age bands, UK. Oct-Dec2019 – Oct-Dec 2021, seasonally adjusted.

While retirement was the most common reason given for leaving work by both those in their 50s (28%) and those aged 60 years and over (56%), those in their 50s were significantly more likely to give stress or mental health reasons (19%) than those aged 60 years and over (5%).

The new rule announced by Kwarteng today will require benefit claimants working less than 15 hours per week to take new steps to increase their earnings or face having their benefits reduced. The current threshold is 9 hours.

Given a significant number of over 50s cited stress and mental health as reasons for leaving work during the pandemic is it prudent to place the onus entirely on the individual, and add further stress by threatening benefits sanctions?

Is this a problem with individuals, or is it a wider issue with the jobs market and society in general? How much do we value older workers?

Those that have stayed on one career path bring a lifetime of experience but that experience commands higher wages. And a perception about late career changers might be that they won’t pick up new skills as quickly as younger workers.

Businesses are facing an unprecedented rise in costs across the board, which will have a part to play when they are making recruitment choices.

We brought together a panel of experts to explore this topic during a recent free webinar as part of the Brighton & Hove Ageing Well Festival.

Challenging Ageism: Valuing older workers explores the value of older workers to our economy and considers how the world of work is changing in post-pandemic Britain.

The event discusses the findings from a small survey recently undertaken to better understand the current demand for ageing workers by local employers and the perceptions those employers have about an ageing workforce.


More to explore

Reimagination at work virtual conference September 26th to October 2nd. What does the future of work look like?
The Possibility Club podcast. Ageing Well - Co-design, marketing and age
5 Big Questions podcast. Carolynn Bain on books, bursting bubbles and opening a bookshop that shouldn't exist

always possible designs and facilitates events, workshops and webinars that connect people and ideas.