Unemployment levels for women aged 65 or over have more than tripled over the past year, new research has warned.

An analysis by Rest Less found that between March 2020 and 2021, unemployment levels amongst women aged 65 and over have increased from 7,200 to 21,000 in a single year. This is an increase of around 193 per cent.

Following the pandemic, economic activity amongst this group has also fallen.

Between March-May 2021, there were 32,000 fewer women aged over 65 either working or actively looking for work than in the same time a year ago – a fall of 5.5 per cent.

However, this rise in unemployment levels was also noted among this group more widely.

Unemployment levels for those aged 65 and over increased by 53 per cent in a year – a greater percentage increase than any other age group.

Furthermore, the unemployment rate for women aged over 65 is now at an all time high, reaching its peak at 3.8 per cent.

This was significantly higher than the 1.2 per cent recorded at this time last year and also higher than the rate of 2.3 per cent amongst men aged 65 and older.

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented:

Whilst the labour market is showing significant signs of improvement and job vacancies have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, it is clear that the recovery is not yet working for everyone, with thousands of talented  older workers at risk of being left behind.

In the last recession of 2009, women could retire at 60 and receive the state pension; today it is 66.   The sharp rise in unemployment levels amongst women aged 65 or over is only set to get worse over the summer with the winding down of the furlough scheme (11 per cent of all working women aged 65 and older are still on furlough). There are far too many women in their 60s stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can’t find a job due to rampant age discrimination but they can’t yet claim their state pension either – which puts them in an extremely vulnerable financial position as they approach retirement.

As well as heightened age discrimination due to the pandemic, working women in their 60s remain significantly more likely to take on the role of carer for a parent or partner at home, which often requires  a certain amount of workplace flexibility to fit around these additional responsibilities – further narrowing their pool of available job opportunities.

In light of this, Stuart stated more needed to be put into place to support this group:

If the Government expects us to work until we are 66, rising to 67 by 2028, then they need to invest in tailored retraining and employment support programmes for older workers that are more targeted and impactful than the existing generic initiatives in place.

Against the backdrop of widespread age discrimination and a rising state pension age, the Government also needs to look holistically at the range of financial support available for unemployed workers in their 60s.


*The data is based on the latest labour market data from the Office of National Statistics which can be found here.