The Labour Market Statistics were released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), presenting a somewhat positive picture of the UK job market.
People in work has increased to 29.73 million (71.5%), up 0.3% compared January's statistics, and this is an impressive 584,000 more people in work compared to the previous year. Likewise, the unemployment rate has gone down and while the rate is still relatively high at 7.8%, the numbers of unemployed people decreased by 156,000 compared to the previous year.
As the only national charity dedicated to helping mature people who are unemployed or facing redundancy explore self-employment - this was welcome news for The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise (The Prince's Initiative) as we definitely want to see more people working and contributing to the UK economy.
Nonetheless, when you delve a bit deeper we have found that a different picture emerges, most notably in the number of people over the age of 50 claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Following a quick analysis, we have found that there are more than 416,000 people aged between 18 and 24 claiming JSA, which is around 162,000 (64%) more compared to the over 50s. However, when you take a look at the number of long-term claimants, it shows that while the number of young long-term claimants has decreased, the number of long-term over 50s claimants has increased.
Opportunities for the mature worker are stark. There are more than 3.5 million people between the age of 50 and 64 who are workless in the UK and for many people in this age group, redundancy and unemployment is a significant problem.
However, it doesn't need to be all doom and gloom as you only need to look at the self-employment statistics released at the beginning of February, which shows that the number of self-employed workers in the UK has increased.
Just like we welcomed the news that general employment figures have gone up, we were equally pleased with the increase of self-employed workers as not only does it show that there are employment opportunities out there but it also demonstrates that it is possible for anyone to start up their own business - in particular, people over the age of 50.
While the 35 to 49 age group makes the biggest contribution to the number of self-employed workers with close to 1.6 million people, the second highest contributor to the self-employment numbers was the 50 to 64 age group and what's even more impressive is that there are 345,000 workers who are 65 and older who consider themselves as self-employed.
The Prince's Initiative, established in 1999, today offers people over the age of 50 the chance to explore the possibility of self-employment through online resources, training schemes, networking events, mentoring assistance, as well as general advice, support and guidance.
Steve Lapworth is a good example of the help we have provided. Following a successful career as a teacher and then a council-based education officer, Steve went on one of our training courses and has since set up Interact Arts. His new venture offers drama workshops to vulnerable groups to help build personal and social skills, such as people with learning disabilities and young offenders, and Steve has since gone on to secure a £4,000 Millennium Award to further help set up his social enterprise.
We firmly believe that mature workers do not have to remain on benefits or be denied equal opportunities in the employment market. Whether it is our online resources, training courses or networking events, we are helping to mobilise a significant number of people to have the confidence to venture out on their own rather than wait around for a job to drop on their welcome mats - the same people who often find themselves in challenging situations simply because of their age.
For more information on The Prince's Initiative: www.prime.org.uk/courses or by telephoning 0845 862 2023. @charityPRIME (https://twitter.com/charityPRIME)