Over-55s, not millennials, have been the main victims of the coronavirus jobs crisis

Linda J. Dodson

The report said older workers who had not yet retired had been impacted disproportionately and some were “now confronting real financial hardship and challenges ahead”. It added that older people who had been made redundant may find it harder to find opportunities to retrain. 

Those of retirement age have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, according to separate research by Rest Less, a jobs site for older people. Its analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics found that over-65s had seen the biggest drop in number of hours worked since the outbreak.

Stuart Lewis, the firm’s founder, said: “This is likely due to the number of older people who have had to shield or self-isolate.”

The number of weekly hours worked by the typical person aged 65-plus fell from 20 between January and March to 16 between March and May.  

People who are unable to come into work because they are self-isolating will usually face a huge drop in earnings, as a large number of employers are only offering these workers statutory sick pay. Paid at just £95.85 a week, this is generally much lower than people’s wages. 

Falling income has forced many older people to turn to the benefits system for help. The number of over-50s claiming Universal Credit more than doubled between March and May.

Mr Lewis said: “Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg as many of those unemployed in their 50s will not be eligible to claim Universal Credit.” This could be because they have more than £16,000 in savings or, in case of those over 65, because they are drawing a state pension. 

“With birth rates having declined for decades, the over-50s have been the main driving force behind the success story of employment growth in Britain in the years leading up to the pandemic. Crucially, they will be just as essential to any recovery of the economy on the other side,” Mr Lewis said.   

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