Whilst coronavirus is still a threat, with over two million people infected in week ending 15th October, it seems that lockdowns are now a thing of the past, without so much of a mention of the disease during the recent Conservative there is no doubt COVID-19 irreversibly changed the way society operates, but even more so the degree and extent of working practice by individuals, businesses and cultural norms towards working. The myth of mandated work within a building designated by an employer is a thing of the past, with home and online working still dominating operating procedure. Whilst some enjoyed furlough, others worked continually – however some people jumped out of the working corral for good. This is particularly true in people of middle age as will be explored in the following paragraphs.
Many in the over 50 categories, perhaps rocked by coronavirus or caring for loved ones with long Covid, are abstaining from work employment at record rates. In a survey for Total Jobs, almost 1 in 10 employers in the UK have expressed concern that many older workers are retiring – and of course, there are implications for workplace experience. The older staff are crucial to take under their wing any new starters or those in middle management, meaning a skill and experience gap has opened. Nearly 25% of over 55s are considering early retirement as a reason to leave, with 1 in 3 stating a form of job satisfaction issue. 25% of deployed UK staff want to retire before 64, younger than any generation on record – meaning a significant cleft in the experience and job market. This contrasts with the evidence that generation Z and millennials are likely to be one of the longest surviving generations, meaning workplace deployment could occur way past current norms. The key here, is whether the workers feel supported to continue, or whether they want to enjoy their final years in pleasure and enjoying free time. There are still those in the cohort who don’t know when they’ll have the funds to retire, and this is more pressing than ever due to the cost-of-living crisis, with 1 in 4 over 50s delaying their ideal retirement age because of this current crisis.
There are still concerns for those not in full employment. A July report in The Participation Gap report demonstrated that the UK is alone in it’s demographics and intent to work, “Out 10 countries studied, the UK is the only country analysed to see significant falls in economic activity rates for people aged 55-64. Rates are virtually back to prepandemic levels in Germany, Italy, the US and Canada, for instance, and have risen in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia”. If the UK matched the best G7 deployment performance, an extra 1 million brits would be in employment currently. Confirming fears around the legacy of coronavirus the report goes on, “The UK has seen an 11% increase in the number of people who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness or early retirement since December-February 2020. The number of people economically inactive due to sickness (2.6 million) is now double the number of unemployed people (1.3 million)”.
It's not something the government hasn’t taken notice of. The ONS has monitored continuous deployments and levels of sickness – with long term sickness the highest on record. It’s difficult to drill into the causes of sickness, but stress and depression have been increasing in all areas of work due to the contentious nature of society. Labour Market information demonstrates inactivity continues to be driven by over 50’s. From the recent report, “In May to July 2022 there were 386,096 more economically inactive adults aged 50 to 64 years than in the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period (December 2019 to February 2020). People experiencing long-term sickness and students have driven the rise in economic inactivity in the latest period compared with the previous three months, with long-term sickness now at a record high”. With the new coronavirus enquiry continuing, infection levels raising heading into winter and the cost of living crisis, it’s likely there will be a renewed drive to provide substantial support to those caring for a loved one with long-Covid or those disabled and not able to return to employment. If there are no increases in benefits in line with inflation, it’s likely some of the over 50s will mobilise and go back to work even if not well enough to do so, such is the scale of the cost of living crisis we’re all feeling.