Labour market participation among 50-64 year olds has been falling since the pandemic but official figures released today reinforce concerns women are continuing to be worst affected.
Just before the start of the pandemic there were 4.98 million economically active men which has since risen by 9,000 to 4.99 million. In comparison the 4.60 million economically active women has declined by 47,000 dropping to 4.55 million.
Commenting on today’s ONS Labour Market figures, Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group, said: “Economic activity rates – the proportion of people aged 50-64 who were working or looking for work – were at record levels before the pandemic but it has been downhill since then.
“Today’s figures show that although the decline has been arrested, the recovery hasn’t been strong especially for women who are lagging behind in terms of returning to the workforce. An ageing population and changes to State Pension age mean we would expect to see activity rates among these older workers rising, but we’ve actually seen declines.
“It is concerning because, in this age group, women tend to have smaller private pensions than men so may not be in a position to retire early*. The delay to the Social Care reforms which were due to come into force in October may also disproportionately affect women who are three times more likely than men to have to leave the workforce to provide care**.
“Research by ONS last year showed that there was an increasing appetite to return to work for those aged 50-59 who had left their work during the pandemic – a rise in the proportion who would be willing to return from 58% in February to 72% by August***.
“These are people who are likely to be among the hardest hit by the rising cost of living but who also have the key skills and experience needed to help get the economy back on track. It is important help and support is given to those who do want to return.”