It’s either a sign of desperation or determination but almost two-thirds of the unemployed over 50s would now work for free.
New research from skilledpeople.com lays bare the desire of over 50s to get back to the workplace with 65 per cent willing to go unpaid. Three-quarters of the 441 surveyed would take a lower salary than they received in previous jobs.
The number of unemployed silvertops is growing, up 8,000 in the three months to January compared to the three months to December. As unemployment grew by 28,000 to 2.67m, its highest level in 17 years, it seems the older generation made up the majority of those out of work.
'It is indicative of the very frustration felt by over 50s in this country that, even with their skills and experience, most of our respondents – a staggering 65 per cent – would work for free,' said David Hiddleston, chairman of skilledpeople.com.
'Graduate training schemes and youth internships abound, as the country wrings its hands in dismay at youth unemployment, but what of the forgotten over 50s.'
And while there have been many schemes to get the young back into work not all have been well received. A recent example being the besieged government Workfare programme that has seen companies drop out because of protests over allegations that youngsters are forced to work for free.
Following targeted protests Tesco has criticised the scheme and agreed to pay all those involved so it can’t be accused of profiteering from the unemployed.
There is also the case of 22 yr old Cait Reilly, the graduate who is taking her complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. She claims that the government effectively forced her to work at Poundland because of the risk of losing her benefits if she refused.
Perhaps the authorities should target a similar programme at the over 50s? It would probably receive less flak. But it is easy to castigate a feckless youth unwilling to work when there are genuine reasons the oldies may be more willing to be unpaid than the young.
For one, those of mature years are more likely to have assets and savings that can see them through the bad times. That's the kind of financial security a 21-year-old leaving university with a mountain of debt and few prospects can only dream of. So perhaps they can afford to work for the mental stimulation and job satisfaction rather than for the hard cash most of us prefer.
There are number of high profile oldies working well past retirement age, from Sir Alex Ferguson to Rupert Murdoch. This survey seems to prove that the work ethic of the older generation is strong, they just need the economy to create some paying jobs for them.