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Age discrimination impacts job prospects of three million over-50s

A total of 2.99 million recent job seekers over 50 (52%) believe their age has made employers less likely to hire them, according to a new report[1].

Over half of over-50s (52%) who have searched for work in the past five years believe their age made employers less likely to hire them. Perceptions that they are ‘overqualified’, too close to ‘retirement age’ or more expensive have hampered their job search.

Significant disadvantage
The ‘Working Late: Over-50s and employment’ report found that 46% of job seekers aged 50-59, and 64% of job seekers aged 60-69 felt their age put them at a significant disadvantage when looking for jobs. These findings come during the ninth annual National Inclusion Week, designed to celebrate everyday inclusion in all its forms.

In addition to finding age to be a barrier in their job search, other common experiences facing over-50s included feeling overqualified for the jobs they identified (37%), believing their skills did not meet the standards required in today’s workplace (35%) and encountering unsuitable hours and a lack of flexibility in working hours or location (33%).

Potential employers
Over-50s seeking employment also found poor health (17%) and caring responsibilities (9%) adversely affected their job search, especially when these were not accommodated for by potential employers.

Finally, over-50s were asked to describe circumstances in which they believe their age made employers less likely to hire them. Most frequently, over-50s noted a lack of invites to interview (22% of those who think their age made employers less likely to hire them) and, for those who were interviewed, receiving rejections (16%).

Generational skills gap
Actual or perceived closeness to retirement was also stated as a reason that employers were less likely to hire them (11%), as well as actual or perceived generational skills gap (8%). Less frequently, respondents noted that some job offers have implicit or explicit age restrictions biased towards younger workers, and that they have found the ‘cultural fit’ emphasised by businesses to be exclusionary. A final common theme identified in the responses was the perception that businesses can hire younger workers more cheaply.

In terms of driving factors for why over-50s were searching for a job, 29% stated it was wholly financial, whereas 26% stated that their search was driven entirely by other aspects, including life satisfaction as well as social and mental health benefits. The majority of respondents stated their motivations were equally financial and non-financial, an issue that did not differ within age subgroups.

Nationwide average
From a national perspective, when asked about the availability of appropriate job opportunities in their area, the highest percentage of recent over-50s job seekers noting insufficient opportunities was the West Midlands, at 44%, compared to the nationwide average of 33%. Scotland (42%) was the second highest area where over-50s felt there were insufficient job opportunities in their area that matched their skills or experience.
On the other side of the scale, only 20% of over-50s job seekers in Wales felt that there were insufficient appropriate job opportunities in their area. The findings for London (29%) and the North West (28%) were also below the national average.

Source data:
[1] ‘Working Late: Over-50s and employment’ – Over-50s in the labour market: a report for Legal & General Retail Retirement (LGRR) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr). 2021. Opinium survey of 2,000 over-50s in the UK, ONS Labour Force Survey and ONS Wealth and Assets Survey.