People in their 50s who left work and won’t go back are ‘big worry’

Victoria Prentis - Geoff Pugh/The Telegraph
Victoria Prentis - Geoff Pugh/The Telegraph

People in their 50s who have left work and will not come back is a “big worry area”, an employment minister has said.

Mid-lifers who have taken early retirement during the pandemic are now “desperately” needed back in employment, according to Victoria Prentis, a minister of state at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

She went on to say that just because people have family responsibilities such as looking after children or elderly parents it “doesn’t mean we can’t work” and it “doesn’t mean we can’t work full time”.

Her remarks come as the Government prepares to launch a fresh push to get the over-50s back into employment.

Speaking at a fringe event on family values at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, she said companies must do more to encourage mid-lifers to return to work.

Left the workforce after Covid

“Our big worry area – in DWP at the moment we have many – but one of them is people in their 50s who have left the workforce after Covid and will not come back,” Ms Prentis said.

“And we need their skills, we need their experience – with the tightness of the labour market, we desperately need them back into work.”

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The Office for National Statistics found late last year that there were 180,000 fewer over-50s in work than before the pandemic.

Last September, 362,000 over-50s were unemployed and 3.5 million 50-64-year-olds were economically inactive.

Ms Prentis said she hosted a series of roundtables with employers last week to discuss what more they can do to encourage people back to the workplace.

‘Full of really good skills’

“We are trying to understand what more companies can do to facilitate their return and to encourage them to return because they are full of really good skills,” she explained.

“We’ve got a very, very tight labour market, so frankly we need everybody we can get. We are quite keen to find out why people aren’t back in work and to encourage them to return if they can.”

Ms Prentis also pointed out that retiring in one’s 50s “might not make for a financially secure retirement” given how long people live.

“Frankly with the [age] we will all be living to, these are people with a long life ahead of them and they are going to have a much more financially stable old age if they work beyond their early 50s,” she said.