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Older people and employment: Is Government policy effective?

28 March 2017

The Women and Equalities Committee launches a new inquiry into older people and employment, looking at current Government policies to help people extend their working lives, and considering further steps which could be taken to tackle issues including age discrimination.

Working age population

In 2010 one in four of the working age population was aged 50 or over, and this is projected to increase to one in three by 2022. The average age of leaving the labour market is lower than in 1950, while life expectancy has increased: a quarter of men and a third of women reaching state pension age have not worked for five years or more. Almost one million people in the same age range who are not in employment state that they are willing or would like to work.

'Recruit, retain and retrain'

The Government's Fuller Working Lives strategy takes forward Baroness Ros Altmann's review A New Vision for Older Workers (March 2015) and its recommendations for Government, business and individuals to 'recruit, retain and retrain' older workers.

The Spring Budget 2017 (PDF 3.75MB) (para 4.12) contained announcements of two initiatives "recognising that individuals should have the opportunity to retrain and upskill at all points in their life": up to £40 million to be spent by 2018-19 on 'lifelong learning pilots' testing different approaches to retraining and upskilling throughout working lives; and £5 million for identifying how best to increase the number of 'returnships' offering routes back to employment for people who have taken lengthy career breaks.

Call for written submissions

The inquiry focuses on the questions below, and the Committee welcomes evidence from individuals as well as organisations:

  1. Is the Fuller Working Lives strategy a comprehensive response to the issues identified in the Altmann Review?
  2. What progress has been made to date by the Government's employer-led approach, and what are its strengths and limitations?
  3. What further steps should the Government consider in order to reduce barriers to later-life working?
  4. What further steps need to be taken to reduce age discrimination in recruitment, and what evidence is there that an employer-led approach will be effective?
  5. How successful are Government policies on re-training and re-entry likely to be in helping people stay in work or find new employment? Have relevant recommendations on reforming Jobcentre Plus and welfare-to-work services been implemented? Is there a place for employer incentives?
  6. How should Government and employers respond to and improve age diversity in the workforce? How could the Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy most effectively contribute to improving the prospects of older workers?
  7. Is the Government's approach addressing the different needs of women, carers, people with long-term health conditions and disabilities and BME groups among the older workforce? 

Deadline for submissions

The deadline for written submissions is Tuesday 9th May 2017.

Chair's comment

"The problems facing older people at work rarely make the headlines yet last year nearly 10 million people over 50 were in work. We know that many others in this age group who would like to be working are not in employment. Helping people over 50 to tackle age discrimination is good for the economy, for employers, and for individual employees.

The Government recognises the problems facing over 50s but will its strategy and plans make any difference? Our inquiry will consider progress so far; the things that stop change; what works; and what more needs to be done."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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