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Skills of older workers are being overlooked, say MPs


The contribution older workers can make to business success and the wider workforce is routinely overlooked according to a survey of MPs.

When questioned about their experience of age and employment issues in their constituencies, more than eight out of ten MPs responding (83%) said more training and information about issues concerning the ageing workforce were needed.

The survey, by TAEN – The Age and Employment Network and leading older people’s charity Help the Aged, also revealed that:

•Six out of ten (62%) MPs believe that population ageing, skills needs and the employment of older people issues are affecting the local economies of their constituencies. Shortages of skilled labour are of particular concern.

•Six out of ten (60%) report that their constituents have raised issues with them relating to direct and indirect discrimination.

Rather worryingly, only a minority of MPs (39%) are aware of the considerable barriers facing older people who would like to work, such as lack of access to training, lack of suitable employment to match skills, forced retirement, the impact of migrant workers and age discrimination.

A common problem is that too much emphasis is placed on qualifications rather than skills and experience.

Again, only 39% of MPs questioned thought that the need to engage older people in the workforce is well understood among businesses, unions and those involved in the labour market with 61% believing such issues are not well understood in their constituencies.

“It is encouraging that MPs say they want to learn more about these issues,” says Chris Ball, chief executive of TAEN. “Yet in our survey MPs report that little is being done to address a range of issues around age discrimination, demographics and skills shortages. There are variations, of course, with some areas of the country appearing to be more acutely affected than others but the overall verdict appears to be ‘could do better’."

Paul Cann, director of policy and external relations at Help the Aged, says: “This survey of MPs suggests that older workers’ needs are not being addressed and their potential contribution to the local economy is not properly understood or valued. This is a waste of talent, energy and wisdom. As a society we should be striving towards a workforce that embraces older workers and the benefits they can bring – both to business and the wider economy.”


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