There are now more than 609,000 additional people over 50 who have left the workforce entirely over the past two years.

However, the analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) by Rest Less suggests that the ‘Great Retirement’ may only be temporary.

The data surveyed nearly 14,000 adults aged between 50 and 70 in early February this year.

It found that 22 percent of all respondents who had left the workforce since the pandemic would not rule out returning to work or self-employment. The figure rises to 31 percent for respondents aged under State Pension Age (currently age 66). There is also a notable difference between men and women.

One in four (25%) male respondents said they would consider returning to employment compared with 19 percent of women.

Economic inactivity peaks

However, economic inactivity levels a men aged 50-64 in December 2021 to February 2022 were the highest since records began, according to this analysis from Rest Less.

From the ONS labour market data, Rest Less’ analysis has shown that economic inactivity levels amongst men aged 50-64 reached 1.47 million in the latest official figures – the highest they have ever been since records began in 1992.

Also, the economic inactivity rate amongst this demographic reached a nine-year high and is now at 23.1 percent.

Since the pandemic began two years ago, there are now 179,000 additional men aged 50-64 who have left the jobs market entirely.

Stuart Lewis, Chief Executive of Rest Less warns of the “alarm bells” that are ringing as a result of the experienced workers leaving the job market since the pandemic began, coupled with the economic activity levels being at an all time high.

“We know that workers in their 50s and 60s are less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts, are more likely to face age discrimination in the recruitment process and once unemployed, this means they are significantly more likely to end up in long term unemployment,” adds Lewis.


A glimmer of hope

Despite the mass exodus of workers from the job market, the ONS data provides a glimmer of hope.

Lewis says: “An unexpected mass exodus from the jobs market of any part of the population poses huge risk to business and society. When the exodus is from highly experienced workers, not only does this equate to a serious loss of talent but it also impacts on team productivity, efficiency and cognitive diversity within teams.

“The qualitative data from the Office of National Statistics’ Over 50s Lifestyle survey provides a glimmer of hope that if employers can create the right opportunities for people of all ages to thrive in the workplace, then the Great Retirement trend might at least in part reverse.

“It should be a massive wake up call for employers who are struggling to retain and attract talented candidates. Progressive employers who invest in measures such as flexible working, all age apprenticeships and retraining and upskilling for employees of all ages are most likely to attract this experienced generation back into the workplace and tap into all the benefits of a multigenerational workforce.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.