Dumped at 50? Disturbing figures as furlough comes to an end

Rishi Sunak, will the furloughed over 50s ever get back to work?

On the day Chancellor Rishi Sunak cuts the support to companies using the furlough scheme to 60 per cent of the wages paid to the 1.9 million people still on furlough, some very disturbing figures are beginning to emerge on the make up of the numbers left.

Both the think tank Resolution Foundation and Rest Less report that it is the older generation rather than the young that are not getting called back to work.

While headlines have concentrated on the serious issue of the mental health of the young who cannot find work, official figures reveal a growing problem for the old.

HMRC data shows that younger workers have been leaving furlough most quickly, with the share of under 18 staff furloughed falling from 13 per cent in May to 7 per cent in June, and from 10 to 6 per cent for those aged 18-24. One-in-ten workers aged 65 and over were on furlough – the highest share of any age group. The Foundation has warned of older workers being ‘parked’ on furlough as younger workers return to work as hospitality reopens.

London remains the furlough capital of Britain, with nine of the ten local authorities with the highest furlough rates in the capital, including Newham and Hounslow where around one-in-eight workers are still on the Job Retention Scheme.

Rest Less, a digital community and advocate for the over 50s, analysed Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Statistics issued by the government on 29 July and found that the total number of furloughed jobs fell from 2.4 million to 1.9 million between May and June* – a fall of 590,000.

Proportion of over 50s furloughed is rising

Whilst the number of furloughed roles fell across all age groups, the proportion of over 50s on furlough has been steadily increasing this year, rising from 27% in January to 34% in June. In contrast, the proportion of under 30s on furlough fell from 29% to 21% in the same time period.

Both sets of figures show that those over 50 are going to find it harder to get a job and build up enough years to claim a full state pension between the age of 50 and 666 or 67 when they can claim the state pension. Being out of work also means that they won’t qualify for a second work based pension either – possibly forcing them to have to claim pension credit if they can.

Charlie McCurdy, Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“The number of furloughed employees has fallen below two million for the first time as the economy continues to reopen. But that is higher than many expected, and a cause for concern as the scheme is wound down.”

Fresh wave of redundancies

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “The country is reopening, and the total number of people on furlough is falling quickly – by three million since the beginning of the year.  However, the recovery is clearly not working for everyone, with more than 630,000 people aged over 50 still on furlough and waiting to find out if they have a job to go back to.  This is in addition to the 568,000 over 50s claiming job seeking or out of work benefits. 

When the furlough scheme draws to a close next month, we’re expecting it to be accompanied by a fresh wave of redundancies and another spike in unemployment levels – delivering another blow to workers in their 50s and 60s.


Faced with significant age discrimination in the recruitment process, and no Government equivalent to the Kickstart scheme for older workers – the implications of redundancy for workers in their late 50s or early 60s can be significant.

‘Once made redundant, workers over the age of 50 are two and a half times as likely to be in long term unemployment than their younger counterparts. Rather than being able to top up their pensions in those crucial years before retirement, many will find themselves having to dip into what pension savings they do have – leading to a significant drop in long term retirement income for decades to come.”

Yet the government seems obsessed with continuing to raise the pension age when it is becoming clear that the old generation are facing the greatest difficulty in getting jobs. A new generation will be living in poverty with failing health and that poverty will not end when they eventually get their pension.