Report

Over 50s and Jobs in UK – Much of the existing research is narrow and lacks high-quality data and analysis

This review looks at the evidence around active labour market policies aimed at tackling the challenges of worklessness amongst those aged 50 and over.

Recent employment rates for the 50-64 age group have hit a record high. However, in general, people aged 50 and above continue to face greater difficulty in accessing work-related training and re-entering employment than younger age groups. While some are not working out of choice, around 1 million people aged between 50 and state pension age are not working but would like to be.

Supporting people to be in good quality work for as long they want to is critical for their financial security now and into the future, and is a vital opportunity to help them manage their health and improve their wellbeing. Being unemployed can also have negative impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.

This review looks at the evidence around active labour market policies aimed at tackling the challenges of worklessness amongst those aged 50 and over. The findings show that much of the existing research is narrow and lacks high-quality data and analysis.

Key findings

The findings from the evidence review show that:

– A wide range of research has looked at employment support amongst people aged 50 and over, but much of it lacks high-quality data and analysis. The number of people involved in quantitative and qualitative analysis has often been insufficient to draw any generalisable conclusions.
– Much of the existing research focuses on three areas: the motivations for people to continue working, retirement perspectives, and health issues at work. There is much less evidence centred on unemployed older jobseekers or others returning to work.
– There are substantial gaps in this evidence including:
> The role of employment information, advice and guidance in supporting people aged 50 and over to access work
> The potential for people in mid/later life to become self-employed
> The nature and effects of age-bias in recruitment, selection and other employment practices
> Attitudes to skills development and upskilling amongst people aged 50 and over and amongst employers
> How disability or ill health (and effective advisory support) impact on the opportunities people have to continue working.

The most relevant evidence comes from evaluation of UK-based government programmes and from similar international sources. However, this evidence is often limited to very specific actions or parts of programmes (e.g. facilitated job search, work placement, job subsidies) or initiatives that are open to all ages, with little or no evaluation of how effective these were for people aged 50 and over. The review also suggests that over-50 returners to work are not a homogenous group, yet the evidence rarely looked at different outcomes across regions or for different groups within the over-50 cohort.

The evidence that is available from the UK and internationally, although limited, suggests that effectiveness in return-to-work support for those aged 50 and over involves:

– Customisation and complexity of needs: Support needs to recognise that over 50s are a diverse group. Local-level responses, with integrated and cross-agency working are vital for enabling the delivery of person-centred, flexible support.
– Segmentation of delivery: To enable better design and targeting of support, segmenting over 50s is valuable. This segmentation should look beyond age, to other factors such as closeness to labour market, personal circumstances (health, care) and skills.
– Personalised advisor support: Advisors should be equipped to deal with a range of individuals, ranging from those with managerial or professional backgrounds through to those who are long-term unemployed and furthest from the labour market. There is some evidence to suggest that a ‘peer’ advisor of a similar age (and perhaps gender and ethnicity) can be beneficial in helping to build trust and confidence. DWP’s model for work coaches appears to recognise some of these issues and provides a good starting point for how advisor support might be developed further.
– Motivational support and attitudinal challenge: Motivational, asset-based support to sustain engagement along with support to develop more positive attitudes and expectations of job search and employment appears to be a strong predictor of subsequent success in employment outcomes among this age group.
– Conducive support and engagement environment: The environment in which support is provided must be one that older jobseekers are comfortable with and which is conducive to providing more personalised support. In the UK context, this may be outside the normal jobcentre in circumstances making it easier both to access (multiple) services and make effective use of them.
– Rapid response and early labour market engagement: Rapid and responsive action is a common success factor in capturing those older jobseekers recently made redundant or otherwise becoming unemployed to maintain motivation. Evidence suggests that work experience and job trials (with guaranteed interviews) have proved to be relatively successful in maintaining labour market engagement.
– Skills, training and certification: The evidence confirms the importance of recognising the existing skills and experience of older workers with assessments of prior learning linked to certification that will have currency in the labour market. It also provides an opportunity to identify skills gaps in the jobseeker and use high-quality and targeted training support to update and extend these.
– Mid (and later life) career review: Evidence suggests that well-founded mid-life career reviews, which consider future prospects in the context of an individual’s current situation and future ambitions, can play an important role in opening perspectives and confronting challenges and signposting to services. This is more specialised provision than might be available through conventional job coach or personal advisor support, and capacities for it would need to be built into integrated support provision – often as a front end to support services.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Employment support for over 50s: Rapid evidence review | Centre for Ageing Better

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