Almost 1 million people aged 50-64 have left the workforce since the pandemic. Why the UK is seeing dramatic changes to workforce participation amongst over 50s is therefore a major concern.
We currently have around half a million fewer people in the workforce aged 50+ than we would have had if pre-pandemic trends had continued. Other major economies have seen their employment rates bounce back after the pandemic, including for workers over 50 but we have not seen this in the UK and we want to explore why.
Our previous report ‘What is driving the Great Retirement?’ explored what is behind the recent rise in economic inactivity amongst 50-64 year olds and showed that the UK stands out compared to Germany and the USA as having significantly more negative attitudes towards work, with the pandemic significantly changing views of UK workers.
Our polling also suggested that higher levels of financial comfort amongst this age group in the UK may have enabled increased levels of economic inactivity, with this effect being particularly pronounced for home owners.
Following on from this first report, we have once again partnered with Public First to conduct further data analysis and run focus groups in the UK, US and Germany to get further under the skin of what is behind these new retirement decisions and whether employers could tempt more people over 50 back to the labour market.
We need to understand the recent rise in economic inactivity to outline how to respond and better support employers and individuals in returning back to more meaningful work.
Respond to the strong preferences over 50s show for being able to work more flexibly.
Take a sectoral approach that recognises the specific reasons people are leaving different industries.
Enable Combined Authorities and others working at a local level to tackle the specific drivers of economic inactivity in their region.
Focus on the importance of job satisfaction for keeping people in work or encouraging them to return, especially for those who feel financially comfortable enough to retire.
Improve the provision of these services by finding new ways to ensure this group have access to guidance about their personal financial security and their options for staying in or returning to work.
Improve the experience of work for people below the 50-64 age group, recognising that the reasons people leave the workforce early are a product of issues, such as low job satisfaction or poor health, that develop over time.