'Keeping my head above water': The reality of the over-50s job market in Wales

  • Video report by ITV Wales' Hamish Auskerry

With more than 300,000 people aged over 50 currently unemployed or economically inactive across Wales, finding a job is not easy.

It is thought the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and the end of furlough has affected the group 30 per cent more than younger age brackets.

James Cole, 60, started looking for work at 55 after being out of the job market for 15 years to look after his mother before she died.

He says the hunt for employment is "disheartening at times".

"I think employers are afraid that people's health is going to breakdown. I'm in a fairly robust state of health."

James Cole re-entered the job market aged 55 and says he's worried he won't be able to keep his head above water.

Mr Cole added: "I've got seven years to go before I get the state pension and it worries me that I won't be able to keep my head above water as I am just managing to do now."

One social enterprise in Blaenau Gwent is attempting to combat the issue by hiring people from a range of generations.

The clothing factory, Elite Clothing Solutions, takes on people at the start of their careers as well as those with decades of experience.

Offering bespoke support to older people and those with disabilities or impairments is the factory's way of trying to tackle the problem.

Workers at Elite Clothing Solutions were crucial during the pandemic

Manufacturing supervisor Michelle Powell explained: "It's really important because having some people from older generations, like myself, means they can fetch in the experience of the sewing which the younger generation haven't got.

By next year, it is predicted that a third of the working population across Wales will be over the age of 50. But people in this age bracket have historically been five times more likely to be made redundant than the younger workforce, according to Prime Cymru.

CEO David Pugh explained: "What we're seeing now is that as we've come to the end of the furlough periods, we're going to see a lot more people becoming unemployed.

"And from historical evidence that we've gathered over the years, if you're over 50 then you're five times more likely to be made redundant than someone from a younger age group and eight times less likely to find alternative employment before retirement age."

Elite Clothing Solutions workers were crucial during the pandemic when scrubs were desperately needed in care homes and hospitals across the country. But the sewing market has slowly moved away from this once booming valley to overseas.

Employment advisor at Elite Clothing Solutions, Jonathan Lloyd, said: "Because we're a social enterprise here, we've got the post-production side and we've got the sewing machine side.

"So a couple of our previous participants, like Russell who is 65 years of age, nobody would give him a job. He came here as a qualified sewing machinist, we've given him a job."

He said: "I think employers are beginning to realise the older generation are an untapped market so it's getting a lot better. But I still think there is a need for vast improvement."