July 24, 2015

One-third of Welsh people over 50 are unemployed and struggling to re-enter the workforce

A new report prepared by the National Assembly for Wales Enterprise and Business Committee—Employment Opportunities for People Over 50—highlights the urgent need to address the challenges faced by older jobseekers in Wales.

In many European countries, aging populations—as a result of falling fertility rates and increases in life expectancy—are challenging the sustainability of pension systems and modifying the age structure of the workforce. Additionally, the recent economic crisis has forced many older workers out of the labor market, and once older workers lose their jobs, evidence shows that it is more difficult for them to find new ones.

Such effects are currently being felt in Wales, where more than a third of 50 to 64-year-olds are unemployed. Of those who are working, one in three are working part-time, with women more likely to be employed on a part-time basis than men.

Barriers to employment for those over 50 include care responsibilities, ageism, and stereotypes that the over 50s are in poor health, less productive, or slower to adapt to new technologies than younger employees.

Concerns have also been raised that increasing the retirement age, and therefore the number of older workers who remain in the workforce, will result in fewer employment opportunities for youth. René Böheim has explored the effect of early retirement schemes on youth employment and reveals that there is “no empirical evidence for this claim.” On the contrary, “increasing effective retirement ages and policies to foster employment of older workers are likely to support the employment of both older and younger workers.

Matteo Picchio proposes that training might be one such tool to improve the productivity and employability of older workers, since it might “refresh human capital and reduce the pay–productivity gap.” He suggests that to counteract the inevitable decline in cognitive skills that accompanies aging, policies aimed at retaining older workers need to define training programs to meet their specific learning needs. Activities that are “self-paced, job-related, and work-integrated” have been shown to be most effective.

While Carol Graham argues that flexible work arrangements and retirement options are a potential solution for the challenges of unemployment, aging populations, and unsustainable pension systems around the world. She says that “Late-life workers … under voluntary part- or full-time arrangements, have higher levels of well-being … than retirees.” She notes that “higher levels of well-being are in turn associated with better health and greater productivity.”

The National Assembly report aims to raise the profile of this important issue and as the Committee’s Chair, William Graham, accurately declares, “The sooner we address the difficulties faced by those over 50 in securing steady employment the better prepared we will be for the demographic changes ahead.”

The report can be read in full here

Related articles:
The effect of early retirement schemes on youth employment, by René Böheim
Is training effective for older workers? By Matteo Piccheo
Late-life work and well-being, by Carol Graham