Older women need help in surmounting barriers to work due to caring responsibilities, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.
The report says that, although more over-50s are working now than in the recent past and many are working for longer, there are also strong financial imperatives to extend working lives to ensure older people avoid poverty in later life due to pension changes.
The over 50s are less likely to be employed than younger people. They are also more likely to be long-term unemployed than younger workers and face greater barriers to finding a job than their younger counterparts, says the report. Furthermore, there is a large employment gap for older people between the UK and some of its international competitors.
However, the report says, older women in particular face greater barriers to work. They are less likely to be employed than older men. Though this partly reflects a difference in the state pension age, the gender gap widens for people in their 50s, well before either sex reaches pensionable age.
Planned increases in the state pension age over time, particularly for women, will create new financial incentives for older workers to remain in employment, says the Resolution Foundation. However, without parallel changes to tackle the other barriers to older employment, this change will hinder rather than help some older women who are unable to find or keep employment.
It highlights poor health and caring responsibilities as two of the major factors that push older people out of the labour market. Better access to flexible working opportunities will be critical to tackling both barriers, it says, but women and those on low to middle incomes who most need flexibility are least likely to benefit from it.
The report says a lack of targeted support for older unemployed people to find work coupled with age discrimination in the workplace can also prevent or disincentivise longer working lives. Beyond the state pension age, it adds that a series of other financial incentives, such as the availability of alternatives to retirement benefits such as Employment Support Allowance and the structure of age-related
national insurance contributions, could be strengthened or better aligned to promote longer working lives.
It states: “As the population ages and both the proportion of older workers and the demand for informal care rise, the need for government and employers to facilitate extended working lives will only become greater. The barriers to older employment are not insurmountable.”