Nearly four-fifths of the increase in economic inactivity since the start of the Covid pandemic is accounted for by workers aged 50 and above, but retirees are going back to work, according to latest government figures.
The Office for National Statistics’ February figures on employment in the UK revealed that economic inactivity among UK adults between October and December stood at 21.5%. This was 0.1% lower than the previous three months and 1.3% higher than before the pandemic.
A total of 8,945,000 people were economically inactive, down 55,000 on the previous quarter, although this was largely driven by those aged 16-24. The figure was 767,000 higher than in the first quarter of 2020, of whom 607,000 were aged 50 and above. Economic inactivity covers students, the retired, people with illness or injury, and family carers.
Retirement specialist Just Group said that around 256,000 more men over 50 and 351,000 more women over 50 were inactive than at the beginning of 2020. Employment for people aged 50+ is a mixed picture, with a 36,000 rise for men but a 74,000 fall for women, while activity levels remain subdued compared to pre-pandemic rates.
“It’s a worry that the recovery in the labour market is so anaemic for the over-50s, with businesses struggling to recruit and many people struggling with the cost of living,” said group communications director Stephen Lowe.