Skip to content
Please donate

50-plus workers trapped in long-term unemployment

Published on 10 August 2010 11:00 PM

Number of 50-plus workers trapped in long-term unemployment rockets to 10-year high, says Age UK 

The number of older workers trapped in long-term unemployment has hit a ten-year high after soaring by over 50 per cent in the last year alone, and planned changes to working age benefits could drive this figure even higher, warns Age UK.  

Ahead of today's publication of the latest employment figures, Age UK found that two in five 50-plus unemployed workers - a total of 170,000 people - have been out of work for over a year. The figure went up by half (52%) over the last year and almost a fifth (18.6%) over the last quarter - the highest percentage increase among all age groups - reaching the highest level since June 1997 when long-term unemployment among 50-plus workers was still high in the wake of the early-90s recession (Fig 1). The proportion of 50-plus in long-term unemployment has also risen sharply from 36.2 to 43.7 per cent over the last quarter, setting at its highest level since 2000 (Fig 2).

While male workers are still the worst affected - making up over three quarter of the 50-plus out of work for more than a year - women aged 50 and over have seen the number of long-term unemployed soar by a third over the last quarter, the highest percentage increase among all age groups.

With the number of older workers looking for a job set to rise by over three quarters of a million as a result of moving people off Incapacity Benefits, Age UK warns that the situation is bound to get worse unless older workers are offered tailored back-to-work support.2

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director, said:

"This is the highest level of long-term unemployment among over 50s that we have seen in a decade and brings back the spectre of the last two recessions which left a devastating legacy of unemployment among people in later life.

"If hundreds of thousands of 50-plus workers remain stuck in long-term unemployment, the Government's plans to ‘reinvigorate' retirement and extend working lives will remain a hollow sound bite for many people.

"Before pushing people back into the recruitment arena or forcing them to work for longer, the Government must lay the foundations of a better job market for older people, with fairness and flexibility as cornerstones."

- ENDS -


Notes to Editors

1.    From the Labour Market Statistics, ONS, July 2010 and Times Series.

2.    Just under half of current Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disability Allowance claimants (48%) are aged 50 and over, totalling 1,078,000 (source: DWP, Nov 2009). Although those claimants reaching the State Pension Age before March 2014 will be exempt from the benefit migration there will be additional claimants who are currently under 50 but will be 50 when they migrate. The Social Security Advisory Committee estimates 80% of current IB claimants will migrate either to Jobseekers Allowance or to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) within ESA. This therefore totals 860,000 older people entering these two benefit claimant groups. Alternatively, based on the rates of new ESA claimants since October 2008, where 66% have been found fit for work and 24% entered the WRAG (source: DWP, Work Capability Assessment statistics, July 2010), this would mean that 90%, or 940,000 extra people would ultimately be looking for work. These figures are estimates only, and there are other factors determining the final outcomes, for instance appeal success rates.


Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged. The Age UK family includes Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI.


Appendix - Figures 1 and 2

Fig 1 - Produced by Age UK based on Labour Market Statistics, ONS, July 2010

percentage of workers in long-term unemployment

Fig 2 - Produced by Age UK based on Labour Market Statistics, ONS, July 2010

Media contact: Stefano Gelmini
Telephone: 020 8765 7514
Out-of-hours: 07071 243 243

Share this page

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top