17 January 2023

Boosting workforce to focus on over-50s, carers and long-term sick – Stride

17 January 2023

Government interventions to boost workforce participation will focus on the over-50s, carers and the long-term sick and disabled, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

Mel Stride has been tasked with coming up with policies to encourage more of the “millions of people who are not looking for work and are not in work” to return to employment, he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has asked Mr Stride to look at ways to tackle economic inactivity, with a white paper due to be published by the Department for Work and Pensions in the coming weeks.

Asked about the measures under consideration, Mr Stride told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I can’t give you all the details because they’re being worked through at the moment; they will be announced in due course.

“But I can say we’re looking specifically at certain areas so those who are over 50 years old, who have taken early retirement, I think are an important group.

“There are those with caring responsibilities, and then you’ve got the long-term sick and those who are disabled. I think there’s a lot of work that we can do.”

He rejected calls from some businesses to allow more migration to plug labour shortages.

Mr Stride said: “Migration is at a fairly high level as it happens already.

“You are right that that is a lever that can very quickly be pulled and have an economic impact. But it seems not the right policy to me to be looking at that when we have around nine million people who are economically inactive, who with the right interventions, we can encourage to come back into work.”

Mr Stride said his department is working on some interventions “that we believe can bring tens of thousands of people back into the workforce” in the short term.

But he conceded other measures “do take longer”.

It was previously reported that Mr Stride is seeking to revamp the benefits system, including allowing people to continue claiming after returning to work, and replacing the system used to assess eligibility for the sickness payment with a process that asks claimants to demonstrate what job they might be able to take.

There was also speculation that tax breaks to encourage the over-50s to work are being considered.

Figures published on Tuesday show the UK unemployment rate hit 3.7% in September to November, up from 3.5% between June and August.

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