I was truly astonished today when I started to do a bit of research on unemployment for those over 50. According to research by Workplace Insight, there are almost a third of 50-64 year olds in the UK not in work – that adds up to 3.3 million people! Within this, 29% are recorded as ‘economically inactive’ – not engaged in the labour market in any way – which is more than twice the rate of those aged 35-49 (13%).
What was also fascinating is that all research, regardless of the source, states similar findings. For example an article by Maggie Baska (2021) in People Management states that, ‘the over-50s are almost 3 times more likely to be out of employment for at least two years versus other age groups’. She goes further to note that according to an analysis of unemployment data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), conducted by the digital community Rest Less, 3 in 10 of those unemployed over-50 have been out of work for at least 12 months, while a fifth (20%) have been out of work for at least two years. Twenty-nine percent of this group have given up looking for work altogether.
Sara Bean workplace insight reinforces this with further data showing those over 50 experience an ‘employment trap’ meaning they are more likely to be out of work than younger age groups, and once unemployed they struggle more than younger jobseekers to get back into employment. What are the reasons for this vast number of highly experienced people not being in the workplace?
There are a number of factors at work, including ageism and prejudice that deter against hiring older workers. In addition, those between the ages of 50-69 may be busy caring for both children, grandchildren and elderly parents, and many have poor health that restricts the amount they can work. Finally, redundancy remains a big issue for people 50-69.
Women in this group are 3 times more likely to be out of work than their male counterparts. This may also be partially due to the onset of menopause – which no one wants to acknowledge or discuss! This interesting article from Bloomberg discusses the unspoken taboo of menopause.
What can each of us do to help reverse the tide?
Being out of work at this age can have a very large impact on a person or family’s financial future as well as their mental health and wellbeing. So I want to ask you, what can be done to help people get back into the workforce?
Imagine the competitive advantages that organisations could gain by adding this population group to their workforce! Not only do they bring skills honed at very high levels, but they can also offer mentorship to younger and less experienced employees. As an employment coach, I have had a great deal of experience with coaching people aged 50-64 back into rewarding jobs and careers and have seen first-hand the benefits to the organisation.
According to a recent report by Institute for Fiscal Studies there are several reasons why those over 50 struggle more than their younger counterparts. This is partly due to being in their previous roles for more than 5 years, and now are looking at more flexible working. The changing patterns of work for older workers need to be considered and embraced.
I have seen time and time again the value that older employees can offer to the young – but also the other way around. Reconsidering the value that older employees can have in organisations is what I want companies to begin thinking about.
Some of my insights come from my own experience. In my career I changed roles several times.
On four occasions I had to work through being made redundant as departments shut down or companies were acquired and – on two others – I chose to leave the company when it was clear that my prospects for development and promotion were slim. I made the decision to leave the company as I approached my late forties. Finding new jobs can be challenging but despite the fear that comes with the prospect of being unemployed even for a short time, it made me much more creative in finding and discovering new roles that best suited my needs, experience and interests at the time.
Opportunities do come up and we have to be willing to take a chance on something different and have confidence in our abilities. For example, while looking for a new position in my late forties, whilst contracting for Hewlett Packard, I ran into a former colleague who asked if I was interested in a change of direction. Here began my journey with Cisco, who was willing to hire me because my former colleague recommended me, and they were willing to embrace my experience.
A key lesson here is the critical importance of networking. Since 85% of jobs come from people you know or from the recommendations of others, we all need to start building our networking capabilities – it remains the key driver for success. When people know about you and the successes you have brought to other organisations, your age becomes just a number.
Being made redundant can also impact our confidence and make us question our capabilities and think twice about who would want to hire us.
Aged 50, I left Cisco to join another company and by 55 had taken voluntary redundancy in order to take a leap of faith and set up on my own. I wanted to share my journey through work, redundancies, different industries while developing new expertise, great contacts and successes along the way in order to help others find work that truly makes them happy and fulfilled.
As part of my transition to self-employment, I worked 2.5 days a week as a Business Development Director for 6 months. Following this role, I worked three days a week over four months as the CMO for a Fintech. Both part time roles helped to fund my new business. And in both roles, age was never viewed as an obstacle; in fact, it was seen as a benefit!
Now having established myself as an executive and career transition consultant, I continue to have the same goals – to help individuals (and in particular, women whose unemployment rates in this age group are even higher) gain back their confidence and recognise the value that their vast experience and skills brings to an organisation.
For many, this transition appears incredibly daunting, but by helping them to see the depth of what they have to offer and by helping them develop new approaches and skills for the job market of 2021, I have seen success after success.
A special interest of mine is in helping women 50+ find new and rewarding job opportunities. By sharing my practical, hands-on expertise, identifying and listening to your needs, we can cook up a recipe for your success.
If you want some help get in touch for a free 15 minute discovery call or sign up for my workshop: https://bit.ly/3qf8Mfk.