Figures shared by Baroness Altmann, the Pensions Minister, show that only half of the population aged 50-64 are still in work in some parts of the country. Many are not leaving because they feel rich but because they feel pressured to or are unable to continue their work.
We know that helping people stay in work will have economic benefits; reducing welfare costs, increasing tax revenue to Government, and ensuring individuals have better savings for later life. However the social implications of work are too often ignored.
Our research Later Life in 2015, which was conducted in partnership with Ipsos MORI, highlighted the interrelated importance of health, finance and strong social connections for a happy and fulfilled later life.
Work sits at the centre of these. Not only does it help financially but work also creates social connections with colleagues and customers, and provides a sense of purpose. In addition, the NHS Consensus Statement from Healthcare Professionals shows that work which is appropriate and undertaken in a safe and supportive environment promotes good physical and mental health.
Conversely, being out of work means people not only struggle financially but may also become socially isolated. Those out of work are also likely to have more problems with their health, for many ill health is one of the reasons why they are out of work.
We believe that enabling people aged 50 years and over to stay in work is critical for a good later life and have prioritised it as one of our first areas for action. We want to help the one million people who are ‘involuntarily workless’ and have been pushed out of their job through a combination of redundancy, ill health, early retirement, caring for others and ageism.
We are going to work with local areas to design and test interventions that will help people aged 50 years and over stay in or move into employment. This means working with employers to find out how best to recruit and retain older workers, and rapidly sharing and scaling what we learn.
Employment for over 50s will require a change in attitude and action from employers. There are benefits for them of keeping experience and knowledge in their organisation as well as people who understand a growing customer segment.
In addition, employees will need to learn how they can actively prepare for a longer working life and be confident in taking proactive steps. Individuals in their 40s should be thinking about their ability and desire to do the same job for another 25-30 years, and how they can develop the skills that match their aspirations. Initiatives such as Mid Life Career Reviews have already been trialled and we may see further uptake in the future.
However, more also needs to be done to support people who are 50 years and over back into work. While there are small scale initiatives in the voluntary sector, such as the scheme by Open Age I visited this week, the funding and incentives currently available means most providers of The Work Programme do not focus on this age group.
The case for change is clear and we are focusing our energy and resources on finding the solutions. We look forward to announcing our first programmes of collaborative action in the New Year.