Government aims to place over 50s back in work

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Public bodies and firms are to be set tough targets to hire more people aged over 50 after a Government report found that early retirement was costing the country £16bn a year.

Public bodies and firms are to be set tough targets to hire more people aged over 50 after a Government report found that early retirement was costing the country £16bn a year.

Under plans to be unveiled by Tony Blair next week, a Cabinet minister for Older People will also be created as part of a drive to mobilise the "grey power" of more than 2.8 million people. People over 50 who currently stay at home will be encouraged to either look for work, help the voluntary sector or learn new skills to make them more employable.

The new initiatives will be unveiled when the Prime Minister publishes research showing that older people offer employers a high level of commitment and customer service. The report on "Active Ageing" by the Government's Performance and Innovation Unit also found that, contrary to popular belief, older peopleare quick learners of computer skills and open to change.

Ministers believe that urgent action is needed to halt the trend of the past 20 years of rising numbers of people over 50 ruling themselves out of the job market. They also hope to tackle the spiralling cost of sickness benefits, which are claimed largely by those over 50, and currently stands at £5bn a year.

With more people living longer, measures to maintain the employability of Britain's rapidly ageing population are seen as key to economic success.

The rising numbers, and the projected cost of welfare bills, also risk undermining the Government's plans to reform the welfare state as a whole.

The report will list some 70 recommendations, many of which will be immediately accepted by the Government in an attempt to make progress before the next general election. Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, will take on the additional role of Cabinet minister for Older People.

Mr Darling, 46, is expected to set targets for the number of people over 50 in the workforce and will announce specific goals for the civil service. To counter criticism that New Labour is obsessed by a "cult of youth", Whitehall will set an example by hiring more older people.

The report will show that of the 7.5 million Britons between 50 and retirement age, some 2.8 million are "economically inactive".

Comments