Over-50s who are out of work should be given support to start their own businesses, MPs have said. A report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee has suggested a self-employment support programme could help reduce the level of economic inactivity in people over 50, as well as disabled people.
The scheme, if implemented, would replace the Enterprise Allowance scheme, which paid out to entrepreneurs first setting up on their own and closed in January 2022. As many as 161,000 businesses were set up under the previous scheme, of which more than 31,000 were started by people aged over 50.
MP Stephen Timms, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said that providing support for older people to start their own businesses was an “ideal way” to help them back into work.
“There are quite a lot of advantages to being self-employed, particularly for older people and people with health difficulties, because the flexibility that it allows can be a real boon,” he said. “There are certainly risks that come with starting a business, that’s one of the justifications for government support,” he added. “But we know from survey evidence that many want to be in work, and we think this is the ideal way to support them. People are up for a bit of a challenge, they’re willing to give it a go.”
Data suggested that number of older people in work has risen steadily in the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, with employment levels in this age bracket reaching their highest in January 2022.
However, unemployment in the over-50s age group has risen since lockdowns began. More than 3.47 million people over 50 are now classed as economically inactive, meaning that they are neither working nor actively looking for a job.
Steven Mooney, CEO of start up funding platform FundMyPitch said: “There should never be an age limit on entrepreneurialism, and with the country crying out for economic growth, inspiring people to start a business should be a top priority. Fresh faced graduates should not have a monopoly on start up companies, and we should never ignore the wealth of talent from different age groups that already have decades of workplace experience.
“The challenge is giving these people the confidence to take the plunge, so it’s vital they are equipped with the necessary support and funding to turn their bright ideas into reality,” he added.
Sheila Flavell, CBE the Chief Operating Officer of FTSE 250 training firm FDM Group said: “The over 50s represent some of the most experienced and business-savvy candidates in the country, yet far too many still struggle to find work. At a time when companies are crying out for workers adept in AI and cyber, it’s time to ensure the opportunities exist for those with decades of workplace experience to reskill and reboot their careers. This means getting a whole generation to re-enter the world of work, starting businesses, and turbocharging the economy.”