Unemployment among women aged 65+ reached record levels

Unemployment among women aged 65+ reached record levels
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With coronavirus restrictions lifted, job vacancies are steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, over-50s lifestyle company Rest Less, points out that unemployment among older workers remains high. In fact, analysis of the latest government labour market data indicates an increase in unemployment for women aged 65 and above.

Between March and May 2020, there were approximately 7,200 unemployed women aged 65+ in the UK. For the same period in 2021, the number rose to 21,000 – a record high!

We take a look at what’s happening and what might need to change.

What age group is most unemployed?

Labour market data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicates that unemployment figures for both men and women aged 65 and above have increased more than for any other age group. This is clearly illustrated in the table below that shows the total number of unemployed people in each age group.

Age Group

Unemployment Level March-May 2020

Unemployment Level March-May 2021

% Increase

Under 25

563,000

539,000

-4%

25-34

277,000

321,000

16%

35-49

295,000

383,000

30%

50-64

255,000

355,000

40%

65+

25,000

39,000

53%

Over 50s

280,000

394,000

41%

 

Further analysis indicates that unemployment levels for women aged 65 and above are relatively high across women’s age groups. The table below focuses on the current number of unemployed women by age group.

Age Group

Unemployment Level March-May 2020

Unemployment Level March-May 2021

% Increase

Under 25

258,000

251,000

-3%

25-34

150,000

148,000

-1%

35-49

139,000

202,000

45%

50-64

102,000

151,000

49%

65+

7,000

21,000

193%

Over 50s

109,000

172,000

58%

 

Why are unemployment levels so high for older women?

Research indicates that the number of unemployed women aged 65+ is higher than that of men of the same age. Rest Less comments that this is the case for the first time since 2016. Let’s take a look at the possible reasons.

1. An increase in State Pension age

Previously, women could retire at 60 and receive the State Pension. Currently, the State Pension age is 66 or 67, depending on when you were born, and it is expected to increase. As a result, levels of unemployment could rise further in the future. You can check your State Pension age on the gov.uk website.

2. Coronavirus

Coronavirus has affected many people, and according to Rest Less, 11% of all working women aged 65+ are still on furlough. Additionally, those in their early 60s and still unemployed can’t seem to land a job. It’s thought this could be due to age discrimination. 

3. Additional responsibilities

Women are more likely than men to take up the role of caring for a parent or partner at home. This means that they need some workplace flexibility to accommodate the additional responsibilities. Most employment opportunities may not offer the flexibility required, making it hard for older women to find work.

What can be done to reduce unemployment for older women?

According to Rest Less, if the government requires people to work until the age of 66 or 67, which is still expected to rise, it should invest in tailored retraining and employment support programmes for older workers. These programmes need to be more targeted and impactful than existing generic initiatives.

Additionally, the government might need to take another holistic look at the range of financial support available for unemployed individuals above 60. There’s concern that some factors are not being considered. For example, the government should consider age discrimination, additional responsibilities and the impact of the rising State Pension age.

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