Published January 1999
Older men have experienced the largest falls in employment over the last twenty years. Two-fifths of men aged between 55 and 65 are without work, compared to one-fifth in 1979, equivalent to 600,000 fewer jobs. Older women have not shared in the general rise of female employment. This paper analyses the Labour Force Survey and the first six waves of the British Household Panel Survey to examine why older people's employment has fallen, which groups have been most affected, and whether these trends are likely to continue. The people most likely to leave the labour market are either (a) in the bottom quartile of the wage distribution or (b) with wages in the top half but who are also members of an occupational pension scheme. Once displaced, few older people return to work. There are instead significant transitions between unemployment, long-term sickness and retirement, almost always weakening attachment to the labour market. Furthermore, falling male employment seems to be part of an ongoing trend, rather than simply affecting one unfortunate generation.