The middle age malaise: new jobs go to the young and old

A CIPD survey suggests workers in the 35-49 age bracket are faring the worst when it comes to newly-created jobs.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 16 Mar 2012
Unemployment among the under-24s and the over-50s may have been making the headlines, but it turns out that these very groups have snapped up the majority of the 350,000 new jobs created this year. In fact, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, two-thirds of these jobs went to people under 35, and the remainder to the over-50s. Which has pushed unemployment among the 11m UK workers in the 35-49 age bracket up by 2.9% since the beginning of the recession. Are they the new ‘great ignored’?

Dr John Philpott, the CIPD’s chief economic adviser, seems slightly puzzled about the reasons for this middle aged malaise. He reckons the surprising statistics could be down to one of three factors: firstly, that because their unemployment rate is still relatively low (compared to younger or older workers), workers between 35-49 haven’t received as much help from the Government. Secondly, that because they’re at the peak of their careers, the wages they command are probably too expensive for new employers to pay. And thirdly, that their responsibilities are probably such that ‘downshifting’ into a part-time or temporary job isn’t as attractive as it might be for older (or younger) staff.

He might have hit the nail on the head with that last one – particularly since the CIPD's 'Work Audit' also found that more than nine in 10 people who have taken newly-created jobs are working part-time, while a third are in temporary rather than permanent jobs. According to the figures, there has been ‘no recovery’ in full-time, permanent jobs - which, if the trend continues and Philpott’s ruminations are correct, could easily lead to even higher unemployment among the 35-49 age group.

There were a couple of other interesting points unearthed by the survey. Encouragingly, while employees account for just under two-thirds of the jobs created this year, the number of entrepreneurs has grown, too, with just under a third of the 350,000 new jobs being filled by self-employed workers. Less encouragingly, though, eight out of 10 of those jobs were filled by men – in contrast to the early part of the downturn, when women’s unemployment rate actually dropped - largely because of their greater prevalence in the public sector. But as the cuts begin to bite, that trend's likely to go into reverse too.

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