More than 1.6 million adults in the UK aged 50 and over are unable to work due to long-term illness, a new survey has revealed.
According to Rest Less, a digital community and advocate for people over 50, the number has increased by 20 percent, or 270,000, in three years, based on an analysis of Office for National Statistics data.
This is the most detailed analysis of official data for this age group ever produced.
It shows there has also been an exodus from the British workforce since the pandemic.
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Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less said: “Not only is this a national health issue with thousands of people suffering silently but it’s increasingly an economic issue too – not least because many of these people would like to work in some capacity if the right opportunities were available to them.”
Inactivity in the workforce between July and September 2019 and July and September 2022 was compared in the data by age group.
The survey revealed more than 60 percent of the 2.8 million people out of work due to long-term illness were over 50.
Nearly 40 percent of people aged 50 to 64 who were economically inactive were unemployed as a result of chronic illness.
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The UK chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, promised a “fundamental programme of reforms” to get millions of people back to work in a keynote speech last week.
The drive, he said, would be the key to fixing the UK’s “productivity puzzle”.
Since the pandemic, the potential workforce in the UK has been considerably reduced across all age groups due to an increase in long-term illness.
But the number of 50 to 64-year-olds who are economically inactive — meaning they are neither working or looking for a job — increasing by 375,000 when Covid hit,
it is a particularly significant cause of the decline in the number of available employees in their 50s and 60s.
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Inactive individuals in this age range made up a total of 27.6 percent of the population, up 2.4 percentage points from before the pandemic.
The increase in the population of working age as a whole of 1.5 percentage points is much less than this.
The NHS has struggled to keep up with demand since the pandemic, and waiting lists for common procedures have exploded, reaching a record 7.2 million people in England in October.
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It can take up to two years to treat patients who require hip and knee replacements.
Kim Chaplain, a specialist adviser for work at the charity the Centre for Ageing Better, said. “These new stats make clear that long-term sickness is part of the challenge that the government needs to find solutions to.”
Chaplain said: “Among the thousands highlighted, many are currently stuck within, or outside, an employment support system that does not work for them”.
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David Hale, a spokesperson for FSB said: “You can’t tackle this skills crisis without attracting older people and disabled people into work,”
“That would help small businesses desperate for staff, those entering or returning to the workforce, and the economy overall.”
Bee Boileau, a research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the findings were troubling.
“This rise in long-term sickness for economically inactive people is very concerning,” she said. “It adds to growing evidence that the UK’s health is worsening.”
Source: The Guardian
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