Lower migration due to Brexit and the pandemic has also left the UK with half a million fewer workers from other countries than there would have been had the country continued on the path it was on before 2016, IES calculated.
The NHS, prison service and education sectors have all struggled to recruit staff over the past year, impacting the service they are able to provide. Long-term sickness and disability have proven to be consistent barriers to employment and many older workers have opted for early retirement.
A government spokesperson said it is investing in employment support for disabled people and older workers.
Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription
As chancellor, Rishi Sunak unveiled his Plan for Jobs 12 months ago to help furlough-leavers and universal credit claimants into work. It included £500m to support younger people with little to no work experience and older people who might struggle to find work. One of Sunak’s flagship schemes, Kickstart, saw a third of its vacancies left unfilled when it ended in April 2022.
“There’s been a lot of focus on why so many people have left the labour force since the start of the pandemic,” said IES director Tony Wilson, referring to inquiries such as into the NHS staffing crisis. “But the most important question now is how we help people get back.”
The researchers found just one fifth of jobseekers use the Jobcentre Plus, and of those who do, only one in three said they were satisfied with the help to find work. Less than a fifth of employers use the service designed to offer recruitment support.
”There is little help for employers and a complicated, fragmented and often under-funded system of programmes, schemes and services,” Wilson said.
The IES has now launched The Commission on the Future of Employment Support to develop a blueprint for better employment support.
“We’ve got a real opportunity now to look again at our approach and build something for the future that can support higher growth, better living standards and local economies,” Wilson added.
Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “In the UK we’ve seen 1.3 million more disabled people in work compared to 2017 – hitting a government commitment to unlock their potential five years early. Over the next three years, the Government will invest £1.3 billion in employment support for disabled people to help more people start, stay and succeed in work.
“We are also investing an extra £22 million to tackle unemployment among over 50s, including expanding our Jobcentre Mid-Life MOT service and providing tailored support through our Older Worker Champions. That investment is paying off as there are now two million more workers 50 and over in work than in 2010.”
To support people facing barriers to sustainable employment, Big Issue Group has created free, person-centred service Big Issue Recruit. Find out how Big Issue Recruit could help you into employment, or fill your vacancies, here.