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The Prince of Wales attends the launch of a report about the economic challenges facing the over-50s

23rd October 2014

The Prince of Wales attended the launch of a new report by one of his charities today, which highlights that older workers should be better utilised for the benefit of the country and their own financial wellbeing.

The report, launched by The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise (Prime) which is part of His Royal Highness's charity Business in the Community (BITC) and helps those over 50 start their own businesses, is entitled "The missing millions: illuminating the employment challenges of the over 50s".

It takes an extensive look at the employment challenges for older people and understanding the development of the labour market for the over 50s.

Speaking at the launch, The Prince paid a heartfelt tribute to actress Lynda Bellingham, who was an ambassador for Prime.

His Royal Highness said he was "greatly saddened" by Bellingham's death earlier this week after a long battle with cancer, but praised her tireless work for others and described her as a marvellous actress.

The Prince told delegates attending the launch seminar at the central London offices of global accountants PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers): "Before referring to the work of Prime, I did just want to pay, if I may, a special tribute to Lynda Bellingham, who was, as many of you know, a wonderful ambassador for Prime."

The study, co-produced by Prime and the International Longevity Centre UK, claims a "missing million" of ageing workers who have unwillingly left employment had the potential to offer invaluable skills and experience.

It said up to 1.5 million people aged 50-69 had left work over the last eight years due to a combination of redundancy, ill health or forced early retirement and of these, 1.1 million people wanted a job.

Older workers could be an important resource for the nation as the report predicts there could be a shortfall in the jobs market, with 13.5 million vacancies needing to be filled over the next 10 years and only seven million young people projected to leave school and college over the same period.

The Prince told delegates: "And for what it's worth, to me, one key fact revealed by this research is that employing older people does not mean younger people are ‘crowded out’ of the labour market.  The number of jobs in an economy is not set.

"There is room to employ younger people and older people in a mix of skills and experience that creates better businesses. 

"This research makes it clear that older workers are not a burden, but a valuable business asset.  It is time, I think, we recognised what older people bring to the workplace and to enterprise ”“ in other words, experience, reliability and flexibility"

His Royal Highness  added: "The U.K.’s population is ageing, and making the most of all workers, regardless of age, is crucial to the U.K.’s economic success.  This research shows that not only do a high proportion of older people want to work for longer, but that our economy needs them to do so."

Among the guests at the launch of the report were pensions minister Steve Webb and Lord Sugar's adviser on The Apprentice Nick Hewer, also an Ambassador for Prime.

Mr Webb said: "In the next 10 years there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and state pension age.

"Older workers have a huge amount to bring to any workforce and will form an increasingly important section of the labour market.

"Our Fuller Working Lives Initiative is challenging the outdated stereotypes and showing businesses the benefits of having an age-diverse workforce."

He added: "We have also extended the right to flexible working and outlawed forced retirement, and more than one million over-65s are now choosing to stay in work."

After speaking, His Royal Highness met a number of people who had begun their own businesses in their 50s.

Tony Palmer, who lost his job fixing endoscopes after being diagnosed with the debilitating illness ME, described how following help from Prime he set up his own business eight years ago.

The 58-year-old, from Basildon, Essex, now has a successful career as a glass engraver and said being self-employed allows him to manage his condition.

He said: "I went to the job centre looking for work but when I told the woman I had ME she pretty much said there was nothing they could do."

Mr Palmer decided to turn his skill working with his hands into a business and began engraving trophies, crystal glasses and creating landscapes and still-life images from glass.

He said: "It's something that gives me a sense of achievement. Charles picked up one of my glasses and said it was nice to see proper engraving and not that scratchy engraving."