TUC concerned older people are being trapped in long-term unemployment

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date: 15 March 2010

embargo: 00.01hrs Tuesday 16 March 2010

The TUC will be looking closely at the number of long-term unemployed people aged 50 and over when the latest unemployment figures are released by the Office for National Statistics tomorrow (Wednesday).

The numbers of workers aged 50 or over who have been unemployed for more than six months has been steadily rising since the recession began.

The TUC is concerned that the older workers who have lost their jobs during the downturn are not finding new ones, nor are they getting back into the labour market. Instead, their skills and talents are going to waste on the dole queue.

In this month's unemployment figures the TUC will be hoping for:

  • A fall in the number of people aged 50 or over who have been unemployed for more than six months. Last month the number of older workers who had been unemployed for six months or more rose by 3,000. The numbers have been rising since the recession began so any fall in tomorrow's figures will buck this trend.
  • A small rise in the number of older people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. Last month's unemployment figures revealed that the number of people aged 50 plus who had been unemployed for 12 months or more rose by 11,000. A smaller rise in tomorrow's statistics would be an encouraging sign.

To coincide with the launch of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion today (Tuesday), the TUC has produced a report The Costs of Unemployment detailing the price of long-term unemployment paid by individuals, communities and the UK.

The report examines the wide range of implications of long-term unemployment, including the financial and social costs and the consequences for physical and mental health and family life. Among other findings it highlights:

  • Long-term unemployment is a major risk factor for poverty. Working age people in workless households are more than twice as likely to be poor as those in households where some of the adults are in work, and they are more than three times as likely to be poor as those in households where all the adults are in work.
  • While it is too early to say what the impact of long-term unemployment has been this time around, research during the 1980s recession found that nearly all the families affected by long-term unemployment had a lower standard of living in unemployment than when they had been employed. Debt was a major problem for families in long-term unemployment, increasingly so as resources like savings, loans, sale of possessions, help from family and friends were used up.
  • Primary school children whose fathers are unemployed, economically inactive or absent miss more time from school than other children.
  • A DSS study of 30 unemployed families published during the 1980s recession reported how unemployment left the men feeling irritable, strained or depressed by the loss of their role as breadwinner, while their wives were burdened by the stresses of impossible budgeting.
  • People who become unemployed are more likely to experience situations which are very stressful and which may make mental ill-health more likely, such as debt or problems with relationships.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Every job loss is a human tragedy, but when people are out of work for over a year they risk being permanently scarred by joblessness.

'Long spells out of work can increase the likelihood of mental health problems and relationship breakdown, and devastate entire communities. People who have been unemployed for a long time have a much lower chance of finding work again. There is a real danger that the UK's older working population is being left on the scrap heap.

'Government investment has kept unemployment well below the levels reached in previous recessions, but there can be no room for complacency. The Government should extend its job guarantee for young people to anyone out of work for 18 months to stop people getting mired in semi-permanent joblessness.'


- You can download The Cost of Unemployment at


- For comment and analysis of the unemployment figures tomorrow visit www.touchstoneblog.org.uk

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet


Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: [email protected]

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