Looking for work in your 50s? You’re not alone, say new stats (and start-ups are more likely to succeed)

A report out today shows that there are high levels of people aged 55 to 64 applying for jobs, and there's more work in general. But if you can't get hired, do your own thing, says Lucy Handley 

People in their fifties and sixties are one of the largest groups looking for work, according to a report out today. Almost a fifth of employers surveyed say that they had more job applications from people aged 55 to 65 last year than in 2013, and people aged 16 to 24 and migrants from the EU are the other two major groups applying for jobs.

This shows a mixed picture: it may be good news that people in this age-group are looking for jobs, but it may also show that they are out of work in increasing numbers.

However, employment levels as a whole are at a record high, says Gerwyn Davies, a labour market adviser at the CIPD, which is behind the report

Apart from the modest increase in redundancies, all of the employment indicators are moving in the same positive direction. It’s good to see that more people are getting into work but the focus must now shift to what is happening to those people once they are in work.”

Looking for work? Here are ten ways to update your CV

Davies urges employers to train staff, echoing a report out last year urging businesses to focus on people in their fifties and sixties by PRIME, the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise. PRIME estimates that there are 3.3 million people aged 50 to 64 who are ‘economically inactive’ and that reversing this situation is worth a staggering £88bn to the UK economy. 

Yet compared with the rest of Europe, we’re not doing too badly when it comes to the employment rate of people aged 55 to 64, says PRIME. The UK ranks eighth of 22 countries, with nearly 60 per cent of ‘older’ workers in employment. Sweden ranks highest for this age-group, with 73.4 per cent employed, and Greece the lowest, with just 35.6 per cent.

And the good news is that whether people in their fifties are out of work because of redundancy, or because they choose to be, the chances of succeeding in setting up your own business is much higher. One in five over-50s run businesses, with a higher proportion (70 per cent) of over-50s’ start-ups lasting five years beyond other demographics’.

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