/ Money

Are older workers blocking the job market?

Young man holding an unemployed sign

New research shows that the number of long-term unemployed is at its highest since 1997, with the largest rises among the over-50s. Maybe it’s time to target the over-60s ‘job-blockers’ and force them to retire?

Nearly half (45.9%) of over-50s who are unemployed have been out of a job for a year or more, up from 31% in 2009, according to the thinktank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

And the squeeze is happening at both ends. Just over 10% of unemployed 18-24 year olds were out of work for more than a year in the mid 2000s. That proportion is now 27%.

Fierce competition for few jobs

It’s only going to get worse. For a start, the impending huge increase in university fees will force hundreds of thousands of young people into the workplace at 16 or 18. Coupled with local government spending cuts and a clampdown on benefits claimants, the number of people fighting over every job vacancy is likely to surge.

So what’s the answer if you’re in your 50s and 60s and find yourself out of a job? Some firms are well-known for employing older workers – B&Q and ASDA spring to mind. And yet, while customers and companies undoubtedly benefit from having older staff members, many of these jobs make insufficient use of the expertise and experience they’ve gained elsewhere.

Should older job-blockers retire?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Rather than questioning how we get the over-50s back into jobs that simply don’t exist, perhaps we should force those over state retirement age to actually retire? In other words, address the ‘job-blocking’ issue (similar to the NHS’s previous bed-blocking problems).

Of course, that would require everyone to have suitable financial plans in place which would allow them to retire comfortably. And that in turn means saving more, and for longer. Auto-enrolment and NEST have made a start in addressing this point, but the hard fact is that there just aren’t enough jobs to go round and the state can’t be relied upon to provide a generous safety net for those without a job or in retirement.

So what do you think? Here are a few options to start you off, none of them perfect, but some of them perhaps unavoidable?

A. Reintroduce enforced retirement once you reach state retirement age.
B. Introduce tax incentives to encourage retirement at state retirement age.
C. Raise the state retirement age yet further, ploughing the state pension cash saved back into job creation schemes and tax incentives for employers.
D. Force people to pay into a pension from a much earlier age.
E. Introduce obligatory income and unemployment insurance for all adults.

Richard says:
9 June 2011

I am not sure I am believing what I am reading here. Age discrimination is one of the last great discrimination areas that we are trying to eliminate – so we don’t need any backward steps. The stance is morally indefensible. Solving one injustice by creating another one is not a very intelligent way forward. Why not remove all women from the workforce to reduce male unemployment? Because it is unacceptable and abhorrent – that’s why!

For more see http://www.inmyprime.info

Martha says:
9 June 2011

The tone of this, and much of the content, is quite repellent.

Perhaps those greedy ‘job-blockers’ have to work to survive. Very selfish of them to want to pay their bills, and buy food and so on, I know, but what can you do?!


Hi Richard and Martha. Thanks for your comments.

The core problem still remains that there aren’t enough jobs to go round. An increasing number of over-18s will be hitting the jobs market early, while the increasing retirement age will mean there are more people looking for jobs in the higher age group too. The effect is already becoming apparent through the rising number of long-term unemployed.

I don’t know what the perfect answer is, nor am I sure if anyone has anything approaching one. Quality job-creation would be the panacea, but how do we achieve that? And as I said in my original post, it would be impractical to force people to retire at a certain age unless they have sufficient means to retire on, which in turn throws up a whole new set of challenges relating to the financing of retirement.

I’m keen to discuss the options and find a solution to the issue. Any ideas?

Brian Ormondroyd says:
10 June 2011

Given one million young unemployed and tens of thousands ‘staying on’ or graduates with little chance of employment there must be a radical and quick response.
Pensions for all at 60. at a scale that allows a decent standard of living.
Compulsory retirement at the above age. Opportunities allowing for voluntary work and an expansion of adult/bus pass generation learning.
Drastic – but otherwise a generation of young people growing old without ever working plus all the attendant problems.
ln effect we would be transferring benefits to the old folk and giving the benefits of a useful, productive and meaningful life to our youngsters.

joe says:
22 June 2011

I really liked your Comment,This would be a great way to deal with the problem.

Phil says:
10 June 2011

Pensions for all at 60.

Where exactly is the money going to come from? The Government can’t afford to meet its current pension commitments. It’s one thing saying people should be forced to pay into a fund from an early age but that’s going to take 40 years or more to yield results.

L. Strilciw says:
18 March 2016

I have been working since I was 15 3/4 . . Which in those days you could if you gained full time employment. I left school because my family circumstances.I am now 60. An age I expected to retire at. Work for the nhs and paid into their pension. The government raised the age I can’t retire till 66. A recent quote says I have 44 years contributions and will have 50 by the time I can retire. My late husband died 7 years ago and like me worked all his life. I received a widows pension for ONE year after his death and nothing after that except what I earn. So I would love to finish work . Let a younger person have my job . . But do you want to tell me what I live on . It certainly isn’t on the nhs pension which would pay my utility bills but nothing else. A government pension would help . . The one I should have received and where will they get the money you ask .. . I as I said have a paid 44 years so for me that’s where they can get it from.


If one accepts that there arent enough jobs to go round then directing money to “encourage” older workers to retire makes long term sense for the economy and society.

However to enable people to retire and release jobs requires higher pensions so either compulsory pension contributions or higher tax to pay for state pensions and safety nets.
Whichever way will result in less disposable income for those working.

Em says:
10 June 2011

This view of how the job market operates is just naive … .

In a few months I will become one of the over-60’s “job-blockers”, hopefully continuing to earn in excess of £50K. A nice opportunity for as many as *two* UK university graduates to step into gainful employment, if I were to retire on a state pension – funded by said graduates – you might think.

Wrong! When I decide to retire, my role will be off-shored to a foreign university graduate who, I like to think, will be less effective than myself, but the UK corporate I work for will happily trouser the other £40K, to be paid out in dividends and executive benefits for “increased efficiency”, not new UK job creation.

Unfortunately, today’s corporate social responsibility does not extend to maintaining a UK workforce. As one commentator put it – we are destined for a world where the only professions are CEOs and hairdressers.

Better, perhaps, that us oldies hang onto our jobs and the income remains in the UK for the time being. Through the kind auspices of HMRC, a contribution to unemployment benefits of the young will be made and what is left can be spent on UK goods and services.

Meanwhile, Which? could do better by lobbying hard to stop UK companies exporting their onshore workforce and abusing immigration loopholes in a race to the bottom. Be very careful what you wish for.