Average age of workers leaving labour market fell during lockdown, official figures show

Experts warn of ‘autumn redundancy rush’ among older employees when furlough scheme ends this month

Average age of workers leaving labour market fell during lockdown, official figures show

The average age of people leaving the workforce has dropped slightly since the start of the pandemic, official figures have shown, with sickness, injury or disability still the main reason people below retirement age stop working.

A report published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has shown the average exit age of men fell 0.2 percentage between 2020 and 2021 to 65.1 years, while for women the average exit age has dropped 0.3 percentage points to 64.0 over the same period.

This was despite the state pension age increasing to 66 for both men and women last year.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said this was further evidence of the negative impact the pandemic has had on workers in their 50s and older, and warned that many older people might now be facing the financial pressure of funding an early retirement.

“Sacrificing those crucial final years of pension savings before retirement could have a detrimental impact on retirement income for years to come,” he said.

The report also found an uptick in the number of 50 to 64-year olds not in work who said dismissal or redundancy was the reason for leaving their last job, increasing to 18 per cent in April to June 2021, up from 15.4 per cent over the same period in 2020.

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The number of people who cited “looking after home or family’ also rose slightly from 8.8 up to 9.2 per cent over the same period.

Lewis said this was particularly worrying “given there are still over half a million people aged over 50 on furlough”, warning that end of the furlough scheme this month could create “an Autumn redundancy rush amongst older workers.”

The DWP report found that retirement was still the most common reason given for leaving their last jobs by 50 to 65 year olds who were not working (36.1 per cent), followed by health (21.1 per cent).

The DWP report also showed a “statistically significant increase” in the employment gap between those aged 50 to 64 and younger workers aged 35 to 49, which grew to 13.9 per cent in April to June 2021 – up from 12.9 per cent the same time in 2020.

This growth was even bigger among men, who saw a 1.3 percentage point increase in the employment gap between older and younger workers.

And while there has been a general upward trend in employment rates for older workers over the last 10 years, the DWP found that this trend has reversed this year for most over 50s. Older workers aged between 60 and 64 years were particularly affected, seeing their employment rate drop 2 percentage points in the past year.

The only exceptions were those aged between 55 and 59 years, whose employment rate remained unchanged, and those aged between 70 and 74, whose employment rate increased.