I don’t often get incensed but was listening to a glibly naïve and patronising piece on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme about the million people who decided not to go back to work after Covid.   They’re part of the “Great Resignation”: not unemployed or receiving benefits, they tend to be over 50 years old and they have simply withdrawn from the labour market.

A key thrust of the interview was with a 78-year-old who wants some work to pay his petrol costs in order to continue his separate charity work.   The interviewer could hardly contain his mirth at someone of that age still wanting to work.   He completely missed the important points:

* One million people no longer working is a huge hit on the national economy, productivity, growth and GDP.   We need them back.

* One million people choosing not to work suggests that the vast majority of them were previously so successful in their careers and earnings that they have some level of financial security.   We need people like this with proven talent.

* One million people have opted out of the workplaces that their employers created.   We need those employers to provide better working environments, policies, practices and procedures.

* One million people won’t be persuaded that they are needed across the economy unless everyone changes their attitudes and behaviour towards older workers.

When casual ageism is acceptable in mainstream media, the economy is on a hiding to nothing.

I know that my best working years from the perspective of experience, effectiveness and achievement started in my late 50s.   A decade later, I’m still a force to be reckoned with and I bet there are loads more of you out there too.

© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
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