Although inclusion in the workplace of older employees has improved significantly in recent decades, the UK ranks just 15th out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for its employment rate for workers aged 50 and over, according to a study by the Resolution Foundation.
The average older employment rate for the five best performing OECD countries (Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland) is 72.3 per cent, compared to 56.7 per cent in the UK.
Closing this gap would mean that an additional 1.5 million older people would be in work, says the report, entitled Unfinished Business: Barriers and Opportunities for Older Workers.
And there appears to be plenty of demand among the over-50 age group for greater employment opportunities, with the study revealing that two out of three older workers say they want to continue working up to or past pensionable age.
The recession has had a significant impact on the over-50s employment rate, with joblessness among older people in the UK soaring by 53 per cent since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.
According to the report, the recession has affected older people in the UK far more than in many countries with comparable economies, with the UK falling from 10th to 15th among the top rated OECD countries for over 50 employment rates since the economic downturn.
The study suggests a number of barriers to work for older people which must be overcome if the employment rate for this group is to be significantly increased.
These barriers include a lack of adequate financial incentives to remain in, or return to, work, limited access to flexible working opportunities and continued prevalent age discrimination.
Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “Older workers have fared comparatively well in our jobs market in the last decade but the truth is we’re still nowhere near the podium internationally.
“These findings should spur us on to make our labour market fit for older workers, from giving tailored employment support, providing higher quality part-time work and finally biting the bullet on a social care settlement to relieve caring pressures.