June 20, 2012

Too Much to Lose: Understanding and Supporting Britain’s Older Workers

The UK’s aging population is creating a significant need for people to work later in life. Too Much to Lose outlines that this, along with other trends, means that older workers will continue to play a much more significant role in the UK economy than ever before. This presents both opportunities and challenges. Today’s older workers are more educated, less likely to work in physically demanding roles and are less susceptible to health problems than ever before. However, the challenges facing older jobseekers are large: a jobseeker over the age of 50 is significantly less likely to return to work within the next year, and the cost of spells of unemployment to future wages is considerably greater than it is for younger or middle-aged workers.

This report argues that the back-to-work support provided to older workers fails to meet their needs. To tackle this, it sets out a plan for support that directly addresses the needs of older workers, at the same time as demanding that jobseekers are doing all they can to get back to work. As well as this we argue that there is a need to look at retirement differently, promoting more flexible working and supporting better communication between businesses and their employees. To facilitate these changes, the government’s approach must change. Up to now, the political focus has been centred on the problems of younger workers, and this has distracted attention away from the need to value and support older workers in the UK. This must change so that government focuses support on those with the greatest needs, rather than just targeting support by age.

If implemented, these recommendations will ensure that the older workforce continues to play a major role in the UK economy in the future. Failing to act now risks marginalising a whole generation of older workers and severely damaging both their welfare and the economy as a whole.


Matthew Tinsley

Economics & Social Policy Research Fellow, 2011-2014

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