Aegon research highlights workplace ‘ageism’ barriers for over-50s

by | Aug 23, 2023

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  • Aegon research shows that stopping work, even temporarily, significantly impacts the confidence individuals have in the relevance of their skills.
  • While just 15% of 50-59s who are currently in work feel their skills and experience are irrelevant, that number almost quadruples for those in their fifties who have stopped work or entered retirement (54%). 
  • In contrast, confidence in the relevance of skills and experience does not decrease with age among those who remain employed. In fact, 57% of employed 50–59-year-olds feel their skills and experience are relevant, slightly above employed 18–34-year-olds (52%).

Individuals in their fifties have accumulated decades worth of experience through their working lives. But for many, particularly if entering a new field, workplace norms, practices and skill sets may be unrecognisable today compared to when they started out in their career. Indeed, the accelerating rate of change seen (such as the increase in remote working), means day-to-day work looks very different compared to just a few years ago.

Aegon’s latest research uncovers how time out of the workforce in your fifties can result in a significant and sudden drop in the confidence that your skills are relevant to the wider workforce of today. Those aged 50-59 who have stopped working or retired are almost four times as likely to say their skills and experience are irrelevant to the workforce today than those still in work (54% vs 15%). This can act as a further barrier to those looking to re-join the workforce when confidence can be king.

Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon, said:


“Aegon’s research highlights the huge crisis in confidence amongst the over 50s who’ve been out of the workforce but want to return to work. The fast pace of change including in the way we work created by the pandemic has led to this group of individuals in particular feeling detached or closed off from employment opportunities. Government and employers need to wake up to this so these vital skills and experience can be used for the benefit of individuals, businesses and the UK economy.

“The Government has been turning its attention to the big increase in the over 50s who are ‘economically inactive’ or not seeking employment. For some, leaving the workforce may have been a conscious choice. But for many others, it may have been forced upon them by circumstances. Some recent Government suggestions of seeking out employments more typically undertaken by younger generations1 may not have met with widespread support. But the underlying message of removing often unconscious ageism from recruitment deserves wider consideration.

“Our research reinforces concerns that we can all fall into the trap of being closed to new work opportunities. The over 50s who find themselves involuntarily out of work may be particularly concerned over historic employment conventions and be held back by lack of confidence in their skills. The new world of work may be daunting, and an early retirement may seem like the only viable option. But for the benefit of the wellbeing of those individuals, as well as the UK economy, Government has a role and employers could be doing more to ensure they are offering ongoing training and upskilling opportunities to make sure age is not a barrier to employment opportunity.”


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