It used to be said that a woman over 30 with two degrees or higher qualifications had a statistically higher chance of dying in an air crash than getting married. Now, well-qualified and experienced women over 50 have a statistically lower chance of finding new employment at all levels of the UK’s workforce. Many older women who anticipated working for 15-20 years more before retirement will be lost as contributors to the economy from 2021 onwards.
According to a recent poll undertaken by ‚’No Desire to Retire‚’ (https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/employment/50s-increasingly-concerned-job-prospects-dismal/) the pandemic has affected the employment prospects of all older people, 85% of whom view their chances of securing a job in a negative or neutral light. Older women have a higher presence in the sectors that have suffered the most from business closures and redundancies since 2020 (in retail and hospitality above all), while professional women over 50 also struggle to retain or secure new positions commensurate with their skills and experience.
Older-age employment is currently under-served by government policy. The opportunity to retrain, re-skill and re-purpose the varied skills of the over-50s female workforce is nevertheless present across the UK. Older women may under-estimate their capacity to build and lead new businesses in an age that values technological innovation over human skills. But their soft ‘people’ skills are also underestimated (or conversely feared or misconstrued by younger employers) in meeting the kind of newly identified national and community-level needs and challenges the pandemic has exposed.
With the retirement age likely to rise further over the next 5-10 years, a government-backed training, networking and investment policy towards encouraging women-led businesses for, and by, the over-50s, would self-fund itself in only a few years given the social security savings to supporting otherwise under- or unemployed women in their last years before retirement.