A lack of proficiency with digital work tools such as Zoom has contributed to a steep rise in redundancies among the over-60s, experts have said.
The number of workers over 60 who were made redundant increased from 8,000 between April and June to 31,000 between July and September – a percentage increase twice that of any other age group, research by Rest Less, an excellent website for those of us in their 50s and 60s, found.
Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said that despite the furlough scheme redundancies had risen sharply during the pandemic, and that it was concerning to see any age group particularly badly hit.
He said there were a number of reasons for the surge, including that older staff with long service were more likely to take voluntary redundancy or could lack the digital skills needed in modern workplaces.
He added: “Skills and aptitude count as fair selection criteria for redundancies, so it’s also feasible that in some cases employees’ digital capabilities had some bearing on the decision. That said employers must ensure they are putting all their people in a position to embrace new technology, regardless of age.”
I can’t help feeling conflicted by all this. On the one hand it’s very sad that older people are losing their foothold in the workplace, potentially never to return, which could lead to long-term pensioner poverty.
Yet from the perspective of an employer, as I once was not too long ago, I would need to know my workers – whatever their age – were digitally savvy. In my world being accomplished on social media, familiar with web updating tools and yes, able to use video conferencing, would be basic requirements. As basic now as being able to use a telephone or photocopier were when I first started working in an office.
I suppose the issue is when employers assume older people lack digital skills which is wrong. I guess part of the job of the over-60s is to face up to this reality and get familiar, get trained and get confident with new technology and promote this in CVs and interviews.
Stuart Lewis, of Rest Less, said: “Widespread age discrimination in the workplace continues to make it more difficult for otherwise talented individuals to find new employment in their 60s”
“Older workers are less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts, and once, made redundant, are significantly more likely to find themselves in long-term unemployment.
“Contrary to popular belief, most 60-somethings are not revelling in gold plated final salary pensions – a long-lost preserve of their parents generation.”