Jobs for middle-aged men vanishing

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ONE IN fifteen men between the ages of 45 and 49 who stop work in the UK will never be employed again, according to new research. And their chances of getting back to work are diminishing with every successive generation of middle-aged men.

The dramatic findings about the disappearance of work for middle-aged and older males imply that since 1979 about 800,000 men over the age of 50 have vanished from the workforce. And two-fifths of men between 55 and 65 no longer work.

They are either low earners who lose their jobs, or high earners given early retirement as a form of redundancy.

The report, published today by the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, finds that the trend has been getting worse.

Each successive generation of men is more disadvantaged, and economic recovery has not halted the trend.

It concludes: "Not only are older men today less likely to be employed than their fathers, but there is also a real possibility that employment levels among their sons will be even lower when they reach middle age."

Professor John Hills, director of the centre, said: "Working lives of 30 years are no longer uncommon." The problem with this was that company pensions devised when a 40-year career was the norm were unlikely to be adequate for an extra decade of retirement.

Professor Hills added: "It makes it harder to have a pension system that is both adequate and affordable - and it makes it more difficult for individuals to achieve sufficient pension provision for themselves."

The decision to quit the workforce early is not usually voluntary, the report concludes.

It says: "The cost to employers of salary-related pensions increases, often substantially, as people near retirement age, providing incentives to employers to encourage their employees to retire early."

A man in his late forties or early fifties on above average pay is 50 per cent more likely to leave the workforce if he has an occupational pension. Employers want to escape the cost of making their remaining pension contributions, while employees might not realise how inadequate their existing pension is likely to prove, the report says.

The people least likely to lose their jobs are those with above average wages but no occupational pension scheme.

Older men who have been made redundant are unlikely to return to work unless they can find a new job straight away. The longer they spend away from employment the less likely it is they will return to work.

The report also shows that a fall in male employment is accompanied by an decrease in economic activity among the age group as older men decide to retire rather than spend time looking for new jobs or claiming unemployment benefit.

The other category of older men likely to have dropped out consists of those with very low wages, often in declining industries.

In addition, the pattern of demand for employees in the economy has shifted away from older men in favour of younger women, the report says.

Females in their thirties are much more likely to be in work than they used to be, it reveals.