How Covid has hit the young and the old in the workplace

Recent research from the office for National Statistics showed that while the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had been greatest for younger workers, those older workers aged 50 and above have also been affected and to a greater extent than those in middle age.

For example, employment for older workers was at a record high just prior to the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, but since then it has fallen at a higher rate than for the rest of the working population.

The data also showed that those employees aged 50 years and over were more likely to report working fewer hours than usual because of the coronavirus than those aged under 50 years, with those aged 65 years and over the most likely to say they had worked reduced hours.

In addition, older workers had the highest overall increase in redundancies, and this presents a bigger challenge for this age group as they are more likely to be unemployed long-term than younger people.

In fact, once older workers lose their jobs, it is not only a challenge to get further employment but, more importantly, to get a job that matches their prior skills and salary level.

For example, a study from the Resolution Foundation found that over the past 20 years, workers over the age of 50 who become unemployed have faced hourly earnings that are, on average, 10% lower than their earnings in their previous jobs.

In addition, research from the USA on the effects of Covid-19 on the employment of older workers found that the pandemic had disproportionately affected older workers with the concern that their working lives may be shortened due to their inability to re-engage in the world of work.

This is on top of the increased vulnerability of older workers to Covid-19 who are more likely to have to isolate longer and, because a higher proportion of this age group are digitally excluded, have been less likely to be able to engage with others using online communication tools.

Therefore, it would seem that older workers will continue to experience challenges in employment long after the economy has recovered. Fortunately, Wales has an organisation whose mission is to help this group of individuals.

Founded 20-years ago by the Prince of Wales in response to the many letters he was receiving from those aged over 50 who were facing overwhelming problems securing work because of their age, Prime Cymru provides free support for mature individuals in Wales to set up a business, find employment or upskill through training or volunteering.

The organisation specialises in supporting the over 50s and is passionate about helping people to tackle age-related barriers to entering the workforce.

It currently has a team of nine development officers based across Wales who offer bespoke, one-to-one support to support our clients into employment. This includes help with writing CVs, confidence building, assessing suitable work options, job searching, IT support and interview preparation.

In addition, it offers older people the opportunity to complete a range of qualifications including first aid and food hygiene. A new course was also created during the pandemic that focused on new ways of interviewing and working in order to teach clients how to use video calls, the etiquette of virtual interviews and tips for working from home.

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Currently, Prime Cymru runs the biggest employment and enterprise mentoring programme in Wales but is looking to extend its support even further and has recently teamed up with National Mentoring Day with the goal of recruiting at least 50 more mentors over the next year. In doing so, it will help many more of those older workers who have been unduly affected by the worst economic downturn in living memory.

Prime Cymru is also active in helping older workers to start their own businesses and with academic studies showing that older entrepreneurs have high level of work and life experience, deep networks, and eagerness to remain productive, they are in the perfect position to ensure that this demographic group can take the step into self-employment and maximise their entrepreneurial potential.

Therefore, there remain challenges in ensuring that older workers can not only get access to employment opportunities but can contribute their skills and experience to the economy.

However, we are blessed to have an organisation in Wales that is meeting these challenges and congratulations to Prime Cymru for two decades of making a real difference to so many lives.

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