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Mature job seekers face ageism warns Age UK

Published on 22 July 2010 12:00 PM

More mature job seekers set to face ageism from recruiters, says Age UK

As the Coalition's plans to reform welfare-to-work benefits are set to increase the number of older workers looking for a job, Age UK is warning that more people in later life will be likely to find an ‘invisible wall of ageism' between them and a new job, leading to more older workers stuck in long-term unemployment.

Figures published today by the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) as part of the Citizenship Survey: 2009-10 indicate hundreds of thousands of mature workers are facing ageist attitudes from recruiters. These findings come as the number of older workers looking for a job is set to rise as a result of shifting Incapacity Benefit claimants onto Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Age UK has estimated that this measure alone could lead to over three quarter of a million more older workers returning to the job market within the next four years.1 If age discrimination in the job market is not stamped out, more older job seekers will stumble upon it in the near future, argues Age UK.

The CLG survey published today shows ageism is still the biggest single factor for being discriminated against in recruitment. Four percent of all workers aged 50 and over - estimated in excess of 300,0002 - say they have been refused a job because of their age in the past five years. This is the highest percentage among any age group after people aged 16-24, five per cent of which feel they have been discriminated against by recruiters because of their age3.

Ageism is one of the main barriers older workers face when looking for a job. Research indicates that unemployed older workers have just a one in five chance of getting back into employment within two years of losing their jobs4. This trend is confirmed by last week's unemployment figures showing two in five 50-plus unemployed workers have been out of work for more than a year - the highest incidence of long-term unemployment among any age group.

Figures published recently also show that since the introduction of the Age Regulations 2006 - which gave employees the power to sue their employers for age discrimination - the number of ageism-related cases received by the Employment Tribunal soared from 2,900 in 2007/08 to 5,200 in 2009/10.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director, said:

"The spreading perception of ageism in recruitment shows that, for older workers, the job market is still not fit for purpose.

"As more mature workers are pushed into the recruitment arena by the reassessment of welfare-to-work benefits, hundreds of thousands of them will risk coming up against the invisible wall of ageism.

"Before forcing people to rejoin the job market or work for longer, the government must lay the foundations of a better job market for older people, with fairness and flexibility as cornerstones. The implementation of the Equality Act in October this year offers the Coalition Government an opportunity to refocus attention on the need to tackle age discrimination in the labour market once and for all."

Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN - The Age and Employment Network, said:

"Today's figures show that employers still have a long way to go in making workplace cultures and practices suitable for older workers. Given that the coalition government have committed to speeding up the rise in the state pension age, working longer will become a necessity for more and more people.

"Employers of all shapes and sizes need to urgently wake up to the fact that people will need to work longer and make sure that their recruitment policies are fair. Extending working lives will not succeed without this overdue shift in culture."

- ENDS -  

Notes to Editors

1. 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 68% have been found fit for work and 23% entered the WRAG (source: DWP, Work Capability Assessment statistics, April 2010), this would mean that 91%, or 980,000 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.

2. Estimate based on the number of employees and job seekers aged 50 plus (Labour Market Survey).

3. 3% of all respondents who had been employees or had looked for work in the last 5 years say they have been refused a job because of their age, 1% because of their gender, colour and disability and 2% because of their race (Citizenship Survey 2009-10, CLG, Tab 15, July 2010). Please note that the respondent base for the Citizenship Survey is fairly broad including all people who have been employees or looked for work in the last 5 years. If the base was restricted to those people who have been refused a job, these percentages would likely to be much higher. For more information on the Citizenship Survey 2010 methodology please visit the CLG website at

4. Pre-recession figures from the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing, Wave 2.

For more information on ageism and work in later life and advice on what to do if you think you have been discriminated against because of your age please visit the Age UK website at or call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565.

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.

TAEN - The Age and Employment Network works to promote an effective job market that serves the needs of people in mid and later life, employers and the economy. Its members include a wide range of organisations from across the labour market, including employers, professional bodies, unions and many others.

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

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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