refrained from working due to long-term sickness.

1.6m UK adults over 50 refrained from working due to long-term sickness

According to an in-depth analysis of official data for this age group, approximately 1.6 million adults aged 50 and over have been unable to work since the pandemic, as the long-term illness has increased on NHS waiting lists and migrated from the British workforce.

In the last three years, the number increased by 270,000, or 20%, as per the analysis of Office for National Statistics figures by a digital community, Rest Less, advocating for those over fifty.

“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,” said the chief executive of Rest Less, Stuart Lewis.

The data for economic inactivity in July-September 2019 and July-September 2022 were compared for the age group. The data revealed that nearly 60% of the 2.8 million people who were out of work were over 50 due to long-term sickness. Nearly 40% of 50- to 64-year-olds who are economically inactive are unemployed due to chronic illness.

In a keynote speech last week, a “fundamental programme of reforms” to get millions of people back to work was promised by Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor. He stated in the speech that the key is to fix the “productivity puzzle” of the UK.

The UK’s potential workforce, including all ages, has been drastically reduced since the epidemic due to a surge in long-term chronic health. The greatest impact, however, was felt as the availability of workers in their 50s and 60s were economically inactive because they were neither working nor looking for work, increasing by 375,000 since the start of the COVID pandemic.

These inactive age groups comprised 27.6%, which is an increase of 2.4% from before the pandemic. It is 1.5% higher compared to the rest of the working age groups.

It has been challenging for the NHS to keep up with the demand, and waiting lists for common procedures have risen sharply, reaching a record 7.2 million individuals in England in October. Patients who require hip and knee replacements may have to wait up to two years for care.

The Centre for Ageing Better’s Kim Chaplain, a specialist adviser for work at the charity, stated, “These new stats make clear that long-term sickness is part of the challenge that the government needs to find solutions to.”

“Among the thousands highlighted, many are currently stuck within, or outside, an employment support system that does not work for them,” she further conveyed.

John, 64, was compelled to retire last year due to severe arthritis in his hands. He went to Citizens Advice for guidance, as he could not afford to stay unemployed. He ultimately chose to volunteer for it and is currently trained as a debt adviser.

“CAB saw past my physical disabilities to all that I have to offer them,” he stated. “It didn’t take much to turn me from being a burden to someone able to continue contributing to society, but I know I’m incredibly lucky: other employers would not have had that attitude.”

As per the reports published by the Federation of Small Businesses, it is challenging to find skilled labor for the growth of one in three small firms. “You can’t tackle this skills crisis without attracting older people and disabled people into work,” a spokesperson for FSB, David Hale, stated. “That would help small businesses desperate for staff, those entering or returning to the workforce, and the economy overall.”

Research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bee Boileau, revealed findings that were of concern. “This rise in long-term sickness for economically inactive people is very concerning,” she further stated. “It adds to growing evidence that the UK’s health is worsening.”

- Published By Team Timeswire

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