Cost-of-living crisis could reverse over-50s ‘great resignation’, survey shows

The “great resignation” sparked by Covid could be reversing due to the cost-of-living crisis, new data has found.

The over-50s who have walked away from their jobs since the pandemic have increasingly considered returning to work in recent months because they need more money, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The survey, conducted in August, found that a massive 72% of people in their 50s would consider going back to work, compared with 58% who said so in February.

And around two thirds of those people said that they would return to work for the money, also a jump from the 56% who said so previously.

The pandemic triggered swathes of people to quit their jobs, reports have shown, as many sought a change of lifestyle or were able to resign having built up savings pots during lockdowns.

Over-50s have led the “great resignation” as the age group which saw the biggest exodus from the workplace since March 2020, compared with before the pandemic, the ONS found earlier this year.

But living costs have risen rapidly in the last six months, accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March, which has squeezed household wallets.

Just under half of over-50s who left their jobs after the pandemic, and have not returned since, have seen their household savings decrease, the ONS found.

Furthermore, nearly a quarter of those surveyed in August said that they could not afford an unexpected expense of £850, indicating that people’s emergency cash funds are being worn away by the greater cost of living.

The survey also shed light on the shaky financial stability of workers who have left their jobs since the pandemic.

Just 38% of people aged between 50 and 54 revealed they were confident that their retirement provisions would meet their needs, suggesting that large proportions of people may have prematurely left the workplace with insufficient pension savings to support their lifestyle.

It compares with the 55% of 60 to 65-year-olds who said they were confident in their retirement savings.

Luke Price, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Since the pandemic there has been a notable exodus of older workers from the labour market but in the last six months, with financial fears driven by the escalating cost-of-living crisis increasing, more are at least thinking about returning to work.

“The new data shows that the older workers that are returning to employment have on average higher levels of debt and so are more vulnerable to the current rising costs and prices.

“With a high proportion of older workers concerned they will not be financially stable in retirement, it is more important than ever that employers address the barriers which restrict older workers from staying in the labour market such as limits to flexible working or age bias in recruitment.”