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Older self-employed workers could be excluded from Government support

Christina Hoghton
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Christina Hoghton

Many self-employed workers aren’t able to access support, and the sector includes a disproportionately high number of older people

The  government’s support package for the self-employed risks excluding a sizeable number of older workers who are already in a vulnerable position, according to the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC).

That’s partly because they account for a large number of self-employed. While 12% of workers under 50 (2.7 million) are self-employed, this jumps to 21% of workers aged 50+1 (2.2 million).

But while a significant proportion of older workers are self-employed, a sizeable number may be ineligible for any support, said the ILC. This could unintentionally disincentivise longer working lives and further disadvantage the retirement incomes of the self-employed.

Lower earnings

Full-time self-employed workers aged 55+ earn less than younger workers (aged 24 or over), and over £100 a week less than their employed counterparts.

Although many older workers will have an adequate financial buffer to protect against income shocks, a significant subset, particularly among the self-employed, where 23% of such workers are in relative poverty, do not.

They will struggle to get by with no or delayed support except piecemeal offers of Universal Credit.

The ILC also pointed out that older workers are also likely to be vulnerable themselves or caring for someone more vulnerable to coronavirus alongside these financial pressures. Nearly 60% of carers in England and Wales are aged 50+ and 65% of older carers (aged 60–94) have long-term health problems or a disability themselves.

ILC research fellow Sophia Dimitriadis said: “In these troubling times, it’s more important than ever that no one is left behind. But these arbitrary criteria for support risk doing just that. As a growing number of workers transition to self-employment in their later years, we need to ensure they are not forgotten, and feel supported to work for longer and have sufficient savings for retirement.”

“Failing to support workers of all ages to stay afloat in these unprecedented times could not only put individuals’ livelihoods at risk but also exacerbate the effects of a coronavirus-driven recession.”