The TUC said the job guarantee, which gives employers subsidies for taking on an unemployed person for at least six months, was a “far better way to tackle long-term unemployment” than the ‘work for your benefits’ alternative also proposed by the government.
This programme, included in the Welfare Reform Bill, would force people to do compulsory work experience for as little as £2 per hour, which would “do nothing to improve the job prospects for older workers”, according to the TUC.
It said a guarantee that every unemployed person still on jobseeker’s allowance after two years would be offered a job paying at least the minimum wage would “offer real hope for older unemployed people”.
A TUC report, based on findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, said every year of unemployment for an older man increased their chances of never working again by almost 25%. In addition, almost half of all unemployed people aged over 50 had been out of work for more than a year.
The TUC said the government had “rightly prioritised” youth unemployment, given that the unemployment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds was 17.3%, compared with 4.3% for those aged over 50.
Unemployment causes poverty and isolation
However, it pointed to a Social Exclusion Unit survey that showed unemployment among older people often leads to poverty and isolation, and that tackling unemployment among people over 50 but under retirement age should be a target.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “In previous recessions people complained about the injustice of working women keeping men out of jobs. Sadly today, people are saying similar things about older workers causing youth unemployment.
“The idea of forcing older workers out of the labour market is morally offensive and would cause economic chaos. The UK would instantly lose vital skills and experience and young people would not necessarily be in a position to take up their jobs.”
Intensive support needed
The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) said the government should provide “intensive back-into-work assistance” to older unemployed workers within three months of the date they signed on as unemployed, rather than the current six months.
Its own survey of job seekers aged over 50, published in July, found that 72% felt employers saw them as “too old”, while 48% were seen as “too experienced or over-qualified”.